Journal Archive 2022 CYCLE C

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First Sunday of Advent
Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
November 28, 2021


The Advent Season opens a new liturgical year.

This is a season of joyful expectation as we prepare to celebrate the sacred mystery of The Incarnation…God’s Eternal Word taking Flesh to walk among us in time…the Birth of Jesus Christ.

It’s important to remember that even as we look to the past events that occurred in Bethlehem, we await, as well, Christ’s triumphant return in glory.

No matter what it might be that we are expecting, and regardless of how patient…or impatient…we may be, it is not at all unusual to watch for signs that what we anticipate is about to arrive.

The waiting process typically includes an attentive eye to telling signs.

We open this new liturgical Season with The Lord Himself speaking of signs. The second part of this passage from Luke, however, might be better thought of as symptoms.

Jesus sets out a list of symptoms of poor spiritual health.

On November 1, All Saint’s Day, I saw such a sign…at least something I read as a sign of poor spiritual health.

I happened to be walking through a “big box store.” Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of something BLACK.

Throughout the prior weeks, that sales area had been committed to an extraordinarily large display of Halloween decorations. I assumed that the shelf filled with BLACK was unsold merchandise that would be marked down for quick sale.

I was wrong.

Overnight, the entire area had been transformed into a Christmas store. I walked through aisles filled with all sorts of festive…secular…decorations. None, in any way, shape, or form, spoke to just exactly what it is we are celebrating…the Birth of Jesus Christ.

I found that a little sad.

What I found to be shocking, however, was the shelf that displayed the BLACK merchandise that I mistook for Halloween decorations. In fact, in place of spooky black things, there was an aisle long row of small BLACK Christmas trees.


As I walked away, I couldn’t help but think that this was a sign of how close we are to completely losing the true meaning of Christmas.

At least to me, a BLACK CHRISTMAS TREE is a telling and worrisome symptom of very poor spiritual health.

We Christians live in the world. We cannot help but be drawn into the secular way of celebrating Christmas…or for that matter…living our lives.

But in all things, we are also called to live above the world. So somehow, we need to build immunity against those spiritual diseases that show themselves in things such as BLACK CHRISTMAS TREES.

I would suggest that the perfect place to begin some spiritual rehabilitation is at the Advent wreath.

For us, this is much, much more than a seasonal decoration. The Advent wreath is a circle symbolizing that God is eternal.

There are no black Advent wreaths. The wreath is made of evergreen branches that speak to everlasting life.

The light grows with each passing week as we mark the four weeks by lighting a new candle. This is a symbolic way of reminding us that The Light of Christ dispels all darkness.

The purple candles and ribbons are ways of preparing for a visit from royalty…Christ the King. The single rose or pink candle expresses the joy that we can barely contain while we wait.

Advent is not a penitential Season like Lent. Still, it is a season of preparation.

The best way to prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ is to turn away from BLACK CHRISTMAS TREES…and to stay close to the Advent wreath.

The best way to prepare for Christ’s return in glory is to become living Advent wreaths…staying within the circle of joy, peace…and life…of our Church.

The only way to push back against the invasive forest of BLACK TREES…is to walk in the Light of Christ.

The appropriate way to welcome The Reign of God is to decorate our lives with faith, hope, and love.

Through our baptisms, we have become living signs of the truth that, through Jesus, our Savior had been born. Good and faithful disciples are images of The Child born in Bethlehem….and The Christ, Whose return we wait for.

Second Sunday of Advent
Lk 3:1-6
December 5, 2021

Every time I strain to read a book, or magazine, or directions, or even a label, I hear my mother’s voice from years past, defying time, and urging me to: Turn on a light, you’re going to ruin your eyes!

I can still hear the note of concern in her voice. She wasn’t scolding me. She was worried about my welfare. And so, I would respond by doing as she suggested. I would turn on a light! And, of course, it was easier to read.

Ironically, today, concerned parents aren’t warning against too little light. Instead, they are cautioning their kids about too much light. The warning these days is about excessive screen time on electronic devices and the potential harm from so-called “blue light.”

Another voice that defies time and continues to speak through the centuries, especially during Advent, is that of John the Baptist. The way he is described in the Gospels has influenced our imagination. Artists, authors, even Hollywood directors portray The Baptist as an off-putting, if not completely frightening figure. We tend to envision him as emerging from some cave, coming down to the shores of the Jordan and raging at the crowds that have gathered to witness a spectacle.

But they did more than simply stand and watch and listen. They did much, much more. They entrusted themselves to him. They permitted themselves to be submerged in the river waters by him. They continued to follow him as his disciples.

So, what was it that attracted people to him?

In my own imagination, I look past the scary figure that the Gospels describe and simply listen to this “other worldly voice” crying out from the wilderness. That powerful and captivating voice delivers a call for conversion and transformation.

In my personal reflection, as I stand on the riverbank listening, I do not feel scolded or even reprimanded. What I hear in this extraordinary voice reverberating through time is concern, compassion, and love.

In my reflection, John the Baptist was drawn out from “the wilderness” by his overwhelming care and concern for humanity. Challenging, not condemning, he invited his listeners, and continues to invite us today to turn away from darkness and walk in the Light…The Light of Christ.

Justifying my reflection is the fact that when Jesus appeared, he stepped aside and redirected his disciples’ attention to The Lord.

So, as we begin this second week of preparation, the question is: Do you have enough Light to see?

Is there enough Light in your mind and your heart to see the straight path that leads through Bethlehem to the Reign of God?

A second question might well be: Are you attracted to the healing and life-giving Light of the Gospel, or have you allowed yourself to be drawn to the “blue light,” which threatens not only your vision, but your spiritual life?

Not to worry. No need to strain your eyes. It’s time to light the second candle on this circle of life and love.

The darkness is receding. The Christ Light is becoming more and more powerful. Draw closer and enjoy a better view of what awaits people of good will.

Third Sunday of Advent
Lk 3:10-18
December 12, 2021

In earlier times, Christians observed an Advent fast. As Christmas approached, a break in the fast was permitted and that day of relief was given the name Gaudete Sunday…which means JOY!

Actually, the entire Season is (or should be) filled with JOY! But, over time, the fast was forgotten while Gaudete Sunday remained. A simple way to think of it is to recall the feeling we experience when we find that we are: Almost there! Just about finished. Not long now! Soon…very soon!

That being said, sometimes, when we finally arrive…or accomplish…or achieve…something we have been working towards…mixed in with the sense of JOY is a wave of apprehension. What now? Where do I go from here? What’s next?

Maybe, after the JOY and excitement of hearing and responding to John the Baptist’s call to conversion and transformation, his followers experienced those feelings that kids often struggle with the morning after graduation. What do I do now?

At first glance, his response to their question: What should we do? seems pretty severe. On its face, this is a message of extreme charity.

But just possibly he is “dumbing down” what he had been preaching to them right along. Maybe what he is saying is that once we are converted and transformed, we are able to relax a little…and stop worrying and stressing out about earthly matters…confident that God will find us where we wait patiently for Him.

It makes sense.

After all, when we learn to LET GO and LET GOD, JOY and PEACE fill the space that stress and worry once occupied.

So then, Rejoice in the Lord always! AI say it again…rejoice…The Lord is near!

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Lk 1:39-45
December 19, 2021

We conclude this Advent season with the beautiful story of The Visitation. Scripture scholars suggest different reasons why a young pregnant girl would subject herself to the rigors of a long journey across rough terrain to visit an elderly cousin who is also pregnant. One of the most convincing suggestions cites charity as the primary motivation.

Building on that reasoning, it has also been suggested that The Visitation was, in fact, the very first Christian missionary venture. In other words, what we hear proclaimed today is the description of the first time that Christ is brought to someone in need.

Imagining Mary as the first Christian missionary brings to my mind a friend. Many years ago, in the early years of her religious life, she was summoned to the superior’s office. Much to her surprise, it was announced that after some training as a nurse/midwife, she would travel to another continent with other nuns from her religious community. There, they would become part of a team, joining other American Catholic missionaries charged with the enormous task of founding a maternity hospital. The desperately needed facility was to be located in an impoverished area, a day’s bus ride from the capitol city.

Over the next half-century, the team dwindled in numbers even as the clinic they founded grew. Today, my dear friend and another sister from her community are all that remain from the original group. But the clinic they helped to found, and continue to oversee, is thriving.

The passage from Luke’s Gospel proclaimed on this final Sunday of Advent has inspired, and continues to inspire, some of the most beautiful works of art. The most successful of which…the true masterpieces, that is… portray the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth in such a way that JOY radiates from the canvas. Without JOY, there is no masterpiece.

But, if you happen to be in a museum and allow yourself more than a quick glance at such a painting, you begin to sense that this encounter sparked another emotion as well. RELIEF! The women were relieved to be in each other’s company because only they were able to affirm for one another the validity of the extraordinary experiences that had befallen them.

Who else would believe that a messenger from heaven had brought a special invitation to them from God?

Who else would appreciate the surge in faith required to accept this summons to serve….to say YES, BE IT DONE UNTO ME ACCORDING TO YOUR WILL?

Who else could empathize with the circumstances of their respective pregnancies…Elizabeth, well beyond childbearing years, and, of course…Mary…an unwed virgin?

Who else?

I think possibly my friend the missionary sister can fully believe, appreciate, and empathize with the high drama of the meeting of these two women so many centuries ago.

There was definitely JOY as well as RELIEF when she met the other members of her team. There was JOY and RELIEF as they set out to accomplish what they had been sent to do…mixed, of course, with the appreciation for the magnitude of the task in front of them.

There was and continues to be JOY and RELIEF every time a baby is safely delivered at their clinic. There is JOY and RELIEF as generous donors support their ministry and their facility modernizes and grows. There is JOY in knowing that their lives have been committed to something so critical to so many…and RELIEF that they were graced with the strength of faith to say YES!

Artists, capable of capturing the sense of JOY and RELIEF in the faces of Mary and Elizabeth produce great works. But it takes disciples like my friend to produce a true masterpiece. It takes a life of faithful discipleship to reproduce a true image of The Visitation.

HOWEVER, my friend would be the first to tell you that there is no need to travel to the other side of the equator to enter into the mystery of this magnificent encounter and to know this overwhelming sense of JOY and this RELIEF.

Every time we accept the opportunity to bring Christ to someone in need…and have the strength of faith to say YES, the reward is JOY…together with the sense of RELIEF that comes from knowing that we are doing God’s will.

We move into the Christmas Season with a sense of JOY in knowing that Christ our Savior is born…and RELIEF…that He will return in glory. All this because a young girl said YES! We can hold on to those feelings throughout the year if we strive to be domestic missionaries…always searching for ways to bring Christ to others.

The challenge for each of us is to make our own lives a masterpiece!

The Nativity of the Lord
Lk 2:1-14
December 26, 2021

…there was no room for them in the inn… (Luke 2:7)

That simple detail allows our imagination to visualize the Birth of Jesus Christ in the most humble yet peaceful of settings. When we reflect on the Nativity, very often we can almost hear a choir of angels singing Silent Night. And somehow, we overlook the deprivation, hardship, uncertainty, even fear that Mary and Joseph must have been experiencing that night in Bethlehem.

This year, as I read and reflect on all the Scripture passages that foretold and then describe the birth of the Christ child, that line…there was no room for them in the inn…seems to demand special attention. However, it does not cause me to hum…O Holy Night…or Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Instead, that very significant detail about Jesus’s birth…there was no room for them in the inn…has caused me to look back over the past year and recall all the deprivation, hardship, uncertainty, fear, violence, civil unrest, sickness, and death that the world has endured. As I ponder the recent past, what disturbs me the most is that it is happening again…>there is no room for them in the inn.

By that I mean that fewer and fewer people…in spite of all the fearsome things that are happening around us each and every day…are looking to Christ as our Savior. So many seem to have forgotten that the Father sent The Son to reign as Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:5).

God intended that The Eternal Word should take Flesh and dwell among us so that “His dominion would be vast and forever peaceful.” Tragically, however, we live in an age when The Lord’s dominion seems to be rapidly shrinking. More and more people seem to be saying…there is no room in our lives. And so, there is less and less peace!

These thoughts are clearly disturbing and might well seem totally inappropriate to a Christmas message. But these are challenging times. And the challenge for those of us who continue to make room in our lives for the Lord are very much the same as the challenges to The Incarnation.

Like the sheep, donkeys, and oxen…we are called to use our life’s breath to warm this fragile Child.

Like the angels…the heavenly choirs…we must continue to give Christ glory and praise.

Even as the shepherds responded to The Good News…we are summoned to leave our cares and concerns and doubts and fears behind, and to travel to the place where we will encounter Our Savior. There, we, too, can be witnesses to this miraculous new beginning that, after all these centuries, continues to unfold.

If we are wise and courageous, we will follow the example of the Magi and watch for signs…and when we see them, go where The Light guides us. If we are wise, we will ignore the “modern day Herods,” who hope to destroy the amazing opportunity to find Who we seek and pay Him homage. If we are courageous, we will open the treasure of our hearts and offer our gifts in the service of this “newborn King.”

Drawing on our faith as St. Joseph did, we will respond to the urgent call to protect Jesus. Finally, in our own way, each of us can “give birth” to The Christ…certainly not like The Blessed Mother…but, rather, by bringing Christ into the world by the manner in which we live our lives.

While the secular world celebrates a holiday with the sentimental song…I Wish Every Day Could be Like Christmas…good people know with certainty that it can be! Every day can be like Christmas if only every person were to >make room in their lives for the Lord.

So…>Come, All Ye Faithful…joyful and triumphant, we must show the doubters how it is done. We will face the prospect of another year of deprivation, hardship, uncertainty…even fear, with ever stronger faith and unshaken hope. We can and will meet the challenges of our time because we know that this Child whose birth we remember with great joy and love will return as the Christ, and His dominion would be vast and forever peaceful!

The Epiphany of the Lord
Mt 2:1-12
January 2, 2022

At 7:20 a.m. EST, on December 25, 2021, as Christians were celebrating the Birth of Jesus Christ, scientists around the world were rejoicing over the successful launch of the rocket carrying NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope into deep space. They were so focused on their work, some of them might well have been oblivious to the fact that it was Christmas morning. The project that held their attention was certainly all consuming.

It has taken 10 billion dollars, and the efforts of countless contributors from numerous countries, working over a period of 30 years, to realize this ambition. When it arrives at its destination in about one month, the world’s largest and most powerful telescope, will have the capacity to look through both distance and time.

I am not a physicist or mathematician, so I admit that I don’t have a clue how all this is supposed to work. We lay people are told however, that this telescope will literally operate as a “time machine”. Somehow it will be able to transmit images from the very beginning of the universe.

Scientists will also be using this highly sophisticated instrument to search for the existence of life on other planets. They hope to discover a treasure trove of information from this great venture.

The fact of the matter is, these brilliant people have an infinite amount of wisdom readily available to them in today’s Readings. Actually, I wonder if the circumstances which delayed the much-anticipated launch to the early hours of Christmas morning, weren’t an invitation from The Holy Spirit, to the scientists, engineers, physicists, mathematicians…all the great minds involved in the project, to learn from the three unnamed seekers described in Matthew’s Gospel proclaimed on this Feast of the Epiphany.

The dramatic story of the Three Magi is an example of what human beings can accomplish by working together. The multi- national and generational NASA team is already aware of that. But their colleagues “from the East, who arrived in Jerusalem having seen a special star at its rising” were most likely aware of a truth, that our modern explorers might be ignorant of.

The very desire, as well as the skills and abilities required for exploration are gifts from The Creator. God does not keep secrets. God is continually revealing The Divine Self in countless ways; providing the inspiration and the knowledge for humanity to forge ahead towards a deeper understanding of our origins and our destiny.

Truly “wise people” understand this to be true. Truly “wise people” will appreciate that whatever is to be learned through human efforts is actually God’s Revelation…not just scientific accomplishment.

The goal science has set for itself by sending a powerful telescope into deep space, is to look back in time, to what is referred to as “The Big Bang.” The Mag were far more ambitious. They were eager to look through time, so that they might explore Eternity. Truly wise seekers…those who allow the Holy Spirit to guide their research, are eager to explore “the last frontier” …THE ETERNAL KINGDOM OF GOD!

NASA is hoping that this great effort of the 21st century will lead to discovery of life on heavenly bodies other than Plant Earth. The Three Wise Persons, who embarked on their journey after the Birth of Jesus, by contrast, were longing for an encounter with Divine Life. If successful, it was their intention to prostrate themselves and pay Him homage.

They were successful in their venture. And, when they did encounter the Christ-child, in the most humble of circumstances, they humbled themselves. They knelt before a baby in a manger.

The story of the Epiphany is a reminder that all advances in knowledge should be used for the good of all humankind. Still, at the same time, there is an element of warning in this chapter of the Christmas story. Herod plays a key role. Herod had evil intentions.

Tragically, Herod is still alive and well. The world must be vigilant and resist any and all efforts to use the fruits of this venture for any other purpose than the good of all humankind.

At the conclusion of their visit to Bethlehem, these visitors from a far-off land, returned home “another way.” I wonder if this means something more than charting a different route home. Is it possible that this detail tells us that they returned home changed? Enlightened? Filled with wisdom not just knowledge? Hopeful for the future of humankind?

If the “seekers” involved in the expedition into space accept the invitation to the Holy Spirit to look at creation…not simply through a telescope…but through the lens of today’s Gospel as well…they will discover something beyond their most ambitious expectations. Like the Magi, they will be rewarded with an encounter with God.

A final thought.

The 3 Magi should be a source of inspiration and guidance…not just to scientists. The Epiphany should be an inspiration to all of us. After all, we are all “seekers” …searching for an encounter with Christ.

We don’t need to travel to the far side of the universe to discover what we seek. God is within each of us, eager for us to turn inward and enjoy a visit with The Source of infinite peace and love.

Accept His invitation.

Come Let us Adore Him!

The Baptism of the Lord
Lk 3:15-16, 21-22
January 9, 2021

When I was half the age I am today, I saw a movie called Cocoon. In spite of the many years that have passed, it came to my mind as I was reflecting on today’s Feast of The Baptism of The Lord.

The film is considered “science fiction/fantasy.” The setting is a retirement village in Florida. The leading characters are all senior citizens; played by older actors who had long disappeared from the covers of the tabloids. I recall being amazed that these actors were still alive…let alone still making movies.

The plot involves “extra-terrestrials” …aliens from another planet. They somehow infused the water in a residential swimming pool with a “life force.” When residents of the assisted living community snuck in for a dip, they found themselves recovering from age related ailments, rejuvenated and energized. Gradually, it dawned on them that they had literally jumped into a fountain of youth.

No need for a “spoiler alert.” Having seen the movie in 1987, I recall little more than I have already shared; except for this.

Faced with the potential of “living forever” one of the wives explained to her husband that she was not at all interested. His reply is very memorable… something to the effect of: I’d rather live for only 6 more months with you…than “forever” without you!

Really? You don’t see the connection between the movie and The Baptism of the Lord?

Let me begin my explanation with a quote from Vatican II theologian Fr. Karl Rahner SJ.

“In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.”

In the (many) days since I saw the movie Cocoon…a science fiction/fantasy…what back then was regarded as science fiction has become reality. (The internet, cell phones, robots and artificial intelligence, space tourism…etc. etc.) But what was commonly understood and appreciated to be truth…pure reality…has by many, been pushed into the realm of fantasy. (Eternal life!)

Why is this?

I would suggest because with the passing of time, fewer and fewer people are “mystics.”

You don’t have to be a saint to be a mystic. Every ordinary person, who commits to seeking a deeper and personal union with God, is already dipping their toe into mysticism. And a very good place to begin the adventure into what is above and beyond us in this world, is the Baptismal Font.

You see, our all-loving God preferred not to “live forever” without sharing the joys of the Eternal Kingdom with the creatures called into being for that very purpose. We exist so that God can share perfect and endless love with us.

To make this plan a reality, God sent Jesus into our world to invite humankind into a “deeper and more more personal union” with The Father. And so, The Son, through teaching and preaching, and by way of example, showed us how to become mystics. A dramatic and profound lesson in mysticism took place in the Jordan River. With the Baptism of The Lord we have a brilliant example of the perfect union between God and Jesus.

Moreover, by stepping into the water of the Jordan River for Baptism, God the Son infused our Baptismal waters with the most powerful Life Force…The Holy Spirit. Through our own Baptisms, The Holy Spirit calls into life, that part of us which is intended to “live forever” in the Kingdom of God. On the day of our Baptism, the heavens do open…and God gazes down with love and introduces us to the universe even as The Father introduced The Son. HERE IS MY BELOVED CHILD WITH WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED!

We bring the Christmas Season to a close today. Next week, we begin Ordinary Time. But, when we enter our churches and dip our hands into the Living and Spirit filled waters …we have the opportunity to see how “Extraordinary” our earthly lives can be. When we touch the Living Water of our Baptismal Fonts, the Life Source rejuvenates, refreshes and energizes what was awakened within us through Baptism. When we “bless ourselves” we begin to recover from “sin related ailments” that blind us to who we truly are: CHILDREN OF GOD!

So, enter Ordinary Time this year as a mystic…seeking a deeper and more personal union with God…Who is eager to be in an eternal relationship with you. Very quickly you will come to see as reality, what others tragically have declared to be fantasy.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jn 2:1-11
January 16, 2022

These days, what the world seems to have run out of is common courtesy, civility, and mutual respect. It is impossible to enjoy a gathering when everyone is arguing. And there is definitely no shortage of topics to turn a pleasant conversation into a heated debate, absent of all common courtesy, civility, and mutual respect, which causes me to wonder if, just possibly, one of the many lessons to be drawn from the Cana miracle of transformation is the need to respectfully listen to and consider the thoughts and opinions of others. If water can change to the finest of wine, why can’t we change as well? Today’s Gospel offers some inspiration.

The drama begins that Mary, by the simple act of listening, has become aware of a need that has arisen. She considered the consequences of the shortage of wine to the bridal couple as well as to the success of the gathering. Then she proposed a solution.

Initially, Jesus did not agree with His mother’s suggestion that He get involved. He didn’t feel ready to begin His public ministry. Still, He listened to her. After giving voice to His initial reaction, He weighed the consequences of acting against staying quiet.

How likely is it that Mary simply brushed aside Jesus’s objections? Surely, she also respectfully listened and gave respectful consideration to His reluctance. Her discernment led her to conclude that the situation demanded action and that His time had come.

There is no record of further discussion between them.

Possibly, Mary simply gave Jesus one of those extremely persuasive looks that mothers are known for. What we know for certain is that The Son deferred to His mother’s opinion. However, it came to be that Jesus respectfully listened to His mother, accepted her point of view, and then acted.

This pattern of “respectful listening” continued as the servants listened to Mary…who instructed them to listen to Jesus. And so, a crisis was averted. Water was transformed into wine. The bride and groom were not embarrassed by the shortage. The party continued.

Still, there was another transformation that came about. Because of what they had witnessed, curious followers were transformed into true believers. And so began the public ministry of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that the disciples began to believe and listen to Jesus after He listened to and followed His mother’s bidding.

Who can argue with the suggestion that there is a shortage of common courtesy, civility, and mutual respect in our world? The result is a near total breakdown in dialogue and a dramatic escalation of violence.

People are simply not listening to one another. As a result, we are not finding solutions to all kinds of problems that are bombarding us from every direction. This tendency to dig in and tune out others’ thoughts, feelings, and opinions has even crept into our Church.

Pope Francis has convened a Church Synod under the title: For a Synod Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission. This is an opportunity for us to really listen and become aware of the many needs that have arisen in our world, consider the consequences of inaction, and then propose, agree upon, and implement viable solutions.

Phase I of the process is half complete and the differing opinions have begun to surface. There is no reason to be embarrassed by the fact that we are not like-minded in all things. Still, we risk great embarrassment and failure should this Synod proceed without the “respectful listening” that was evident at a wedding feast so many centuries ago. If we are to transform the world, which is, of course, our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ, then we must fill the jars we draw from with civility, mutual respect, patience, charity, forgiveness, and love. Only then will people come to believe that we are, in fact, The Body of Christ.

If the world is to listen to the Gospel, we must begin to listen to and respect one another…even as Jesus Himself listened to and respected Mary.

But this “Cana approach” to a shortage is not reserved for the institutional Church. We can use “respectful listening” in our home church…our family. We can attempt to transform our workplaces and respond to a lack of civility with a look of patience and forgiveness. We can send a signal to our nation’s leaders that: YOUR TIME HAS COME! It is time to change the shortage of kindness into love. With Jesus’s help, we can transform our world.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21
January 23, 2022

These past Sundays have been a time of “capital R” Revelation.

God is constantly, and in many different ways, pulling back the veil so that we can catch a glimpse of The Divine Self. But our Readings, especially the Gospel selections, have offered us particularly vivid and dramatic disclosures of The Father’s plan to heal Creation through The Son.

The Christmas Season peaked with the Feast of the Epiphany. Through the successful search of three wise persons, we have come to understand that God’s Word became Flesh for the purpose of gathering all nations together in harmony and peace.

We then traveled through time some 30 years. The Season came to a close on the shores of the Jordan. The Lord, now a grown man, humbled Himself by accepting baptism at the hands of John. The veil was literally pulled back. The Holy Spirit, taking on the visible form of a dove…a sign of peace… came down and hovered over Jesus of Nazareth.

Then God spoke words of introduction: You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

What could be more REVELATORY?

From there, we moved quickly to the dusty little village of Cana. During a wedding reception, Jesus revealed His powers to transform the ordinary into something extraordinary. We resumed Ordinary Time this year with an image of change…transformation…and the assurance that “the best is yet to come.”

And now, we find ourselves at a Sabbath service.

Using the Old Testament, The Lord revealed that, through Him, healing has begun. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are unburdened of our poverty and we are strengthened with hope. We are liberated from the slavery of sin. Our eyes are opened so that we might see and come to believe all that The Father has revealed through the Son.

These past Sundays have really offered us some powerful revelations, but now, the focus shifts to us.

As we move deeper into Ordinary time, we should not lose sight of the truth that, through our Baptism, we have been anointed with the same Spirit that The Father sent to act in concert with the healing mission of The Son. Through our Baptisms, we have been transformed into an extraordinary people. We are God’s children in whom God is well pleased.

So, it is now on us to continue to reveal God’s plans to change…transform…heal our world by doing our best to live what we hear proclaimed. We are called to be as transparent as our Creator. It is our duty to “push back the veil” and be an image of Christ to those we meet.

It is left to us to proclaim a year pleasing to the Lord! Do we dare remain silent.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 4:21-30
January 30, 2022

It’s challenging to reflect on this week’s Gospel without thinking poorly of the people of Nazareth.

They admired the powerful manner in which Jesus proclaimed THE WORD. But, when He claimed TO BE THE WORD, they were enraged to the point of violence.

Fresh from several weeks of “epiphany Gospels,” it is especially difficult to understand how they could have gotten things so terribly wrong…during Sabbath prayer, no less! How could they miss this dramatic moment of Revelation…The Lord acknowledging His identity to relatives, neighbors, and friends? How could those closest to Him, those who watched Him “grow…and become strong, filled with wisdom, the favor of God upon Him” (Luke 2:40) be blind to The Truth that stood in their midst?

It really was challenging for me to reflect on this passage without thinking poorly of the people of Nazareth. And then, I enjoyed my own moment of “epiphany,” thanks to a movie I happened to see, entitled: “WORDS AND PICTURES.”

An art instructor and an English teacher, working with honor students attending a private school, become embroiled in a competition over the most important vehicle with which to communicate truth. The artist, of course, argues that WORDS can be distorted, misused, or misunderstood. In her opinion, only ART is capable of speaking pure truth.

For his part, the language teacher draws from the greatest passages of world literature to make his point that WORDS are by far the more significant and reliable means for humankind to communicate truth. At one point, he even quotes the opening line of John’s Gospel: In the beginning was THE WORD, and THE WORD was with God and was God.

This war of ideologies dominated the lesson plans in both classrooms. It ignited the imagination of the students. They stepped up their performance in both disciplines. As I listened to the litany of brilliant thoughts from the English teacher, and then looked at some of the amazing art being produced by the art teacher and her students, I began to wonder myself: Which is more powerful…more trustworthy…words or pictures?

At the conclusion of a semester-long “war,” there was an assembly during which the two teachers were to argue their respective cases. The students would then vote on which spoke most deeply to them: WORDS OR PICTURES.

The art teacher said very little. She simply unveiled three massive canvases. The entire student body literally gasped at the beauty of the art. I even paused the movie and sat up in my recliner so I could enjoy a longer look at the paintings.

The English teacher spoke next. Of course, he regaled the audience with brilliant quotations from the world’s greatest thinkers. He made a most convincing case for the primacy of WORDS. But he, himself, moved by the three-spectacular works of art, suggested that both work together to communicate the deepest and most important truths. WORD AND PICTURES are both vehicles of truth and are especially powerful when working together.

There was my epiphany moment.

For generations, the Jewish people looked to THE WORD for TRUTH, and it served them well. But, God understood that something more was needed in order to reveal the fullness of TRUTH…including the fact that love is more powerful than hate…peace is the natural order…death is not an end but can be the beginning of eternal joy.

And so, in God’s infinite wisdom, our Creator sent the Divine Masterpiece…Jesus Christ…into the world. Christ IS THE WORD…spoken into FLESH so that we might see what has always existed. God’s Masterpiece, Jesus Christ, works with THE WORD to inspire humankind to live as God intends us to live. The ETERNAL WORD, together with THE WORD MADE FLESH speak to our entire being, revealing TRUTH in the most powerful and convincing of ways.

Tragically, the people of Nazareth rose too quickly in defense of THE WORD. Simply put, they did not appreciate God’s Artwork. Had they allowed themselves more time to look at the Masterpiece that God had unveiled before them, they might well have come to appreciate how Jesus illustrates, through His very BEING, the TRUTH that was written on the Scroll.

God uses WORD AND PICTURE to speak to the human heart so that we may come to know and live in the TRUTH. Consider how, through The Eucharist, we hear THE WORD proclaimed and then are inspired by THE PICTURE of Jesus Christ in the consecrated Bread and Wine. There is no more profound union of WORD AND PICTURE than we experience in the Eucharist.

An extremely important takeaway this Sunday is the TRUTH that each of us is a blank canvas. Through the graces that come with the Sacraments, THE DIVINE hand paints TRUTH onto our lives so that others might come to see and believe what was written on the Scroll. When we live what we hear proclaimed, we become living works of art!

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 5:1-11
February 6, 2022

Russia has amassed a sizable army at its border with Ukraine. In spite of intense diplomatic efforts, the real threat of war in Europe continues. (Let us pray!)

At the same time, however, another story involving Russia flashed across the media with a very short shelf life. In a further instance of aggressive behavior, Russia announced naval maneuvers would begin on February 3 in international waters immediately off the coast of Ireland. Tiny Ireland was quick to lodge objections.

Irish diplomacy did not involve requests for military support from allies. There was no threat of economic sanctions. It does not appear that The UN Security Council put the matter on its agenda. The Irish simply announced that they would send out, en masse, the Irish commercial fishing fleet to peacefully disrupt the war games.

“Listen lads, out you go, fish away, no worries!”
Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producer’s Organization told its members. The leprechaun stared down the Russian bear and the bear blinked. The naval exercises were canceled.

What is it about an unarmed, commercial fishing fleet that caused the Russians to back down? Certainly, the fishermen are intimately familiar with the sea, the weather, and their boats. They quite likely feel more comfortable and in control on the high seas than on dry land. Their peaceful act of fishing could be totally successful in disrupting the war games…and the Russians didn’t want to risk the embarrassment.

But more significant than the skills that the Irish would bring to such a “peaceful engagement” is the character of the people who make their living catching fish. They are hard-working and accustomed to hardship. They are resourceful in reading and reacting to the signs that lead toward a successful catch. Of greatest significance is the fact that they are DETERMINED as well as PATIENT.

The Russians recognized a formidable opponent in an unarmed fishing fleet and backed down. Maybe Jesus recognized the same skills, qualities, and character in a group of commercial fishermen and put them to work in spreading the Good News! We know this for certain: Peter and his crew set out that night as fishermen, but they came ashore as DISCIPLES!

We can say something else with certainty, at least about Peter. He was HONEST as well as HUMBLE! With all humility, Peter humbled himself before The Lord and acknowledged his sinfulness; a gesture, by the way, which Peter found himself needing to repeat on several occasions, even as he put all of his skills, gifts, and talents to the work that Jesus had entrusted to him.

There is another force currently operating in our world, far more menacing than any “superpower” flexing its military muscles. What has been referred to as “the culture of death” is amassing an army of thoughts and ideas at the very borders of our Church. At its least threatening, it ignores the Good News, although sometimes mocking or challenging our faith. At its most aggressive, this adversary actively persecutes our sisters and brothers. The objective is to usher in the so-called “post-Christian era.”

So then, like Peter, most of us, in all honesty and humility, have no choice but to acknowledge that we are not perfect…we are sinful. Still, by virtue of our Baptisms, we have been chosen by The Lord to continue the work of that first group of fishermen that Jesus commissioned as disciples. We might well enter the waters of Baptism as sinners, but we will rise up from the waters of Baptism as disciples.

Furthermore, with the graces we are given through the other Sacraments, we inherit all the skills and abilities that Peter and his crew used to face off against the same storm clouds that loom over us today. If we are determined and patient, we can sail peacefully into these troubled waters, confident that Christ will prevail. Our goal is not to defeat, but to convert!

Maybe the takeaway from this week’s Liturgy of the Word can be summed up as simply as this: “Listen lads, out you go, fish away, no worries!”

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 6:17, 20-26
February 13, 2022

Feeling surrounded by threatening people and closed in by stressful circumstances, King David prayed to God for Divine intervention. His prayer for relief is preserved as Psalm 143. There, we hear:

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May Your kind Spirit guide me on ground that is level.

Several different places in Sacred Scripture, we find the expression “level ground,” conjuring up the image of a pleasant route, without obstacles or obstructions. As a senior citizen, I have personally come to appreciate the importance o “level ground.” Stairs, an incline in a sidewalk, as well as things like throw rugs and any number of unexpected and unseen obstacles can lead to a serious fall. I know this to be true from first-hand experience.

Spiritually, obstructions in our life’s journey can also make progress more challenging, and much less enjoyable…AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS!

That being said, it is interesting to note a detail that Luke included in the description of Jesus’s address to “…a great crowd of His disciples and a large number of people” gathered from many different locations. It would seem that Jesus was speaking to an extremely diverse group of people. And in doing so, He stood on a stretch of level ground.

He stood on a stretch of level ground.

That’s the important detail that can easily go unnoticed. By intentionally placing Himself on a stretch of level ground, was Jesus sending a signal? Was The Lord telling us:

Here is the answer to your prayer! This is The Father’s will! This is the way to the Kingdom that offers the least resistance…the fewest stumbling blocks! This is the most pleasant route to take.

The “WOES” certainly seem to be a “caution sign,” warning against a path filled with material comforts, gratification, and pride. These are the very kinds of obstacles to spiritual progress that Jeremiah warns against in our First Reading. These are the kinds of obstacles that provide a false sense of security and make for greater self-reliance. The result is “heart trouble.” When we rely on our own strength to sustain us, we turn our hearts away from the Lord. The consequences can be fatal.

Undoubtedly, there were many privileged people in that “great crowd” who found this teaching very hard to swallow. But there were certainly many more impoverished, chronically sick, disabled, homeless, marginalized victims of discrimination listening to Jesus as He stood on a stretch of level ground…teaching them God’s will…the Eternal Kind Spirit…directing them on a path sure to lead them to The Kingdom.

For them, it must have been extremely challenging to rise above their sufferings and rejoice that a great reward awaited them in the next world. It’s hard to see the wisdom in this teaching when a person’s eyes are filled with tears.

It would seem, then, that every person in that great and diverse crowd was on “level ground” in terms of the challenges raised by this revolutionary teaching. It’s fair to say, however, that almost everyone that day understood this much to be true:

From lived experience, everyone in that great and diverse crowd knew…firsthand…that no one’s life is completely free from perilous conditions. This is a dangerous and hostile world we live in. No one travels in complete comfort.

But those, like King David, who are wise enough to ask for God’s help along the way, will be guided onto the path of least resistance. Let us pray, then, for the wisdom to recognize those things…either good or bad…that cause us to turn our hearts away from the Lord!

Simply put, let us do our best to be “level-headed” and “level-hearted” so that we can journey toward the reward that awaits all those who have placed their hope in the Lord…on level ground.

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 6:27-38
February 20, 2021

I was walking quickly past a “high end” coffee shop. I say “quickly” because the aroma wafting out of the cafe was strong and very inviting. Since I already had my three cups for the day, I was moving fast and trying not to give in to the temptation. Still, I happened to look over at the stylish printing on the window that read: Like coffee…Love people!

Those four little words spoke to me to the point that I forgot how much I would have LOVED to step in for a fourth cup. Maybe the message drew special power from the fact that Valentine’s Day (meant to be celebrated as a saint’s feast day) was fast approaching and “love” was in the air as thick as the smell of strong coffee. At any rate, Like coffee…Love people! got me thinking about how seriously devalued the word “love” has become.

Consider that for which we frequently profess our love. I love my mother’s meatloaf. I love my job. love my new car. I love this weather we’re having. (Poor example here in Michigan)

Still, we hear and say it all the time. We profess our love for the silliest and inconsequential of things, without really thinking about what we are saying.

Seriously? Would you risk your life for a slice of meatloaf? Do you love your job so much that you would work for free?

The point is, we overuse the word. As a consequence, we risk undervaluing not only the word but also the emotion…even losing touch with the deepest meaning and power of LOVE. And before we brush that point away by saying, It’s just an expression…no big deal, it might be worth remembering that:

GOD WILLS THAT WE REFLECT LOVE…with all our mind, heart, and soul…to God, to others…and in the mirror.

But careless or thoughtless use of the word is not the only thing that threatens our ability to be better images of our ALL-LOVING GOD. There are other emotions, dark feelings, desires, and inclinations that are floating around us in this world, constantly tempting us and drawing us in. “Earthly” feelings, alluded to by St. Paul in our Second Reading, threaten to overpower the purity of love.

Hatred, anger, revenge, selfishness, and greed…or a special blend of all this darkness, fills the very air we breathe. These “earthly inclinations” create an irresistible aroma that hits us with a powerful punch as strong as the smell of fresh perked coffee at daybreak. Even worse, once we get a taste of them, we are hooked. This special blend of darkness is highly addictive.

The Good News is that our Creator, The Origin and Source of LOVE, sent Jesus Christ, “the new and final Adam,” into this world to overpower all of these seductive “earthly aromas.” The Holy Spirit purifies the air so that we are able to inhale “heavenly aromas.” And if we walk quickly away from the darkness and toward The Light, what we breathe in is the “life-giving Spirit” that St. Paul speaks about. That Spirit IS LOVE! And the more we inhale love, the more we are transformed into what God created us to be.

What’s the takeaway from all of this?

Maybe it’s as simple as those four little words on that cafe window: Like coffee…Love people! And of course…Love God AND love yourself!

So, when the alarm clock rings on Monday morning. it’s OK to wake up and smell the coffee…but…before your feet hit the floor, take a good, long, deep breath of the “life-giving” Holy Spirit of Love!

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 6:39-45
February 27, 2022

Bam! Bam! Bam!

Jesus fired off a series of rapid fire verbal punches that must have made “some people’s” heads spin. By “some people,” I mean the hypocrites in the crowd. And make no mistake about it, there were some wolves in sheep’s clothing standing there, listening and gathering evidence to be used against Him at a later date.

This series of short, powerful teachings is part of what is referred to by Scripture scholars as “The Sermon on the Plain.” Contrast this with Jesus’s other major teaching events.

Remember the time when The Lord stepped into a boat and pushed off a short distance into the lake to address the crowd gathered on shore? And, of course, most everyone is familiar with the “Sermon on the Mount.” Standing above, and looking down on the gathering, Jesus began to teach.

Here, He is on level ground, eye to eye with the folks He is addressing. There was no distance between Him and His listeners. This might be considered an up close and personal “in your face” kind of event. Jesus took full advantage of His position. He pulled no punches. Bam! Bam! Bam!

There is every reason to believe that these spiritual blows landed with a powerful force on the faces of “the hypocrites.” But they didn’t flinch. They simply walked away with the burning sting that comes from being called out in this way. Unmasked, they waited. And then, on Good Friday, they landed what they thought was the knockout punch. Gathered in another crowd, they incited the chant “Crucify Him!” “Crucify Him!” “Crucify Him!”

Blind guides!

The wooden plank in their eyes became the crossbeam on the Cross. But they were still blind. Jesus, on the other hand, was and is still alive.

However, there were other people in the crowd that day…good, honest, and sincere folks, people like YOU! These people were thrilled to be “up close and personal” to The Teacher. Their heads didn’t snap back with each of the little teachings. For them, The Lord’s words were not a slap in the face, but a gentle and loving touch of the heart.

They opened their minds to what the Teacher was teaching. They opened their lives to change. And, in this way, they became “like the teacher”… HUMBLE, TOLERANT, FORGIVING, TRUTHFUL, LOVING, AND EAGER TO SERVE.

Mindful that Ash Wednesday is this coming week, The Church gives us these Readings to reflect on this 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Anticipating the Lenten Season, it would be wise to gauge your reaction to The Lord’s “Sermon on the Plain.”

If you felt a gentle touch in your heart (or conscience), then you are ready to begin Lent. You are open to change. You are in touch with what you need to work on. You will use Lent as a time to get up close and personal with Jesus Christ, Who is eager to look you in the eye with His healing, life-giving gaze. For you, the coming season holds the promise of growth that will produce good fruit.

If, on the other hand, your reaction to this Gospel is: He’s certainly NOT talking about me!! Well, then, do not expect a particularly good harvest at the conclusion of these 40 days. If you can’t see or bring yourself to acknowledge what needs to be changed…change won’t come. Who among us (except, of course, those walking around with a plank in their eye) can honestly say: There’s nothing about me that needs to change!

Lent is an exciting time. It’s an opportunity to stand “on the plain,” shoulder to shoulder with other good, honest, and sincere folks. This special Season brings a special invitation to get up close and personal with Jesus Christ. It is an occasion to look the Lord in the eye and ask for the graces necessary to become even more like our Teacher! Lent is the growing Season, that, when taken full advantage of, concludes with an abundant harvest!

So, find a spot on “the plain” and let The Son shine on you! Grow! Change! Produce good fruit

First Sunday of Lent
Lk 4:1-13
March 6, 2022

Why is he doing this?

The media has been offering several different reasons for the invasion of Ukraine. Thinking varies. Of course, there are the obvious geo-political, economic, and military motives. It has even been suggested that controversy between the Orthodox Christian Churches in Eastern Europe is a factor.

(If there is truth to that suggestion, the invasion becomes even more tragic.)

Most likely, there were multiple factors that motivated the aggression, all working together. I would suggest that underlying and energizing all the objectives for this unjustified and horrific breach of peace is the exchange recorded in the Gospels, which is always proclaimed on this First Sunday of Lent…THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS IN THE DESERT.

Alone, in his own private “desert,” a seductive and persistent voice spoke to him.

“You’re still hungry! Help yourself to more!”

Once it captured his attention, this intriguing voice continued.

“Expand your sphere of influence! You have the power. History will remember you as a great and wise conqueror.”

Continuing, this voice became even more persuasive by asking:

“What do you have to lose? Go for it…it’s cheap real estate.”

And so, lured away from what is good and right and just, he ordered the military to act. Should the invaders be successful, will this leader’s appetite be satisfied? Probably not. History has proven that aggression motivates further aggression.

Speaking of history, was that seductive voice that invaded his consciousness and disturbing world peace, correct? Will future generations remember him as a genius, whose savvy leadership accomplished great things for his nation? Definitely not. Already, people from around the world are characterizing this person in the most vile terms. It will take a powerful pen to rewrite his role in history.

Finally, what does he have to lose? First and foremost, by listening to this deceitful voice in the desert, he has lost Jesus Christ’s most precious gift to the world…PEACE! The voice lied to him. The voice misled him. The cost of his weakness, in terms of human suffering, is staggering.

Enough about him. What about us?

Why do we do the things we do? Do we have control over our own appetites?

When we indulge our yearnings without considering the consequences, are we ever really satisfied?

Do we let that little seductive voice that speaks to us in desert moments attack our ego and stoke unwarranted pride? Are we lured by the voice into turning towards darkness and away from The Light of Christ?

It is beyond our imagination that any one of us will ever be persuaded to use military force to invade a neighboring country. Only a very few people will ever control the nuclear codes. In other words, precious few (thank God) will have the power to disrupt world peace.

But, what about peace in our families…or neighborhoods…or places of work…or schools…or parishes? What about our own peace of mind?

Each of us has the potential to disturb the peace. And we are more inclined to do so when we listen to that persistent, seductive voice that whispers to us when we are alone…in our “desert place.”
Each of us is vulnerable.

Our appetite for what is unhealthy or destructive is awakened by the voice. Our ego is flattered, triggering an invasion of pride and arrogance when we permit this voice to infect us with lies. Distraction and devastation are what awaits us in one form or another when we permit ourselves to be fooled into thinking there are no consequences for bad acts.

The Good News is that, in addition to our frailty that leaves us vulnerable to this deceitful voice, we have the power to ignore it. By His time in the desert, Jesus has proven that truth always prevails.

Let’s use this Lenten Season to silence that voice and fill our minds and hearts with the sweet sound of the Holy Spirit…Who sings of Life and Truth. The penitential practices of prayer, fasting, and sacrifice enable us to pull the plug on the lies and to walk with confidence towards the Light.

Finally, during our prayer time, we should remember the people of Ukraine…asking God to prevent the evil that they face from hardening their hearts to the goodness of our God…Who ultimately will silence the voice for all eternity.

Second Sunday of Lent
Lk 9:28b-36
March 13, 2022

The importance of today’s Gospel is evident from the fact that the mountaintop experience is reported (with only slightly varying details) by all four Gospel authors. Appreciating the significance of the Transfiguration, the Church gives us one of the versions to reflect on every Second Sunday of Lent.

Further highlighting the enormous value of this episode in the life of Jesus Christ, Pope John Paul II included it as one of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. In this way, we are encouraged through our prayer to delve more deeply into the meaning and significance of the mysterious event.

Scripture scholars and theologians have done that by writing extensively on this meeting between heaven and earth. Because of the multiple facets to reflect on and learn from, this is an extremely challenging passage to break open and share in any meaningful or exhaustive way, especially in a brief Sunday reflection. This year, I drew inspiration from a torn, wrinkled, and faded piece of paper that has been on the back corner of my desk for many years.

Intrigued by the profound thought I read in some long-forgotten book, I wrote it down on a piece of paper. I frequently look over at it and am re-inspired. Unfortunately, I cannot give the author credit because I neglected to note the name of the source. For this, I apologize. Still, whoever wrote these words would likely approve of me passing them on so that others can be inspired.

“God wanted to meet us where we are as a human being, not just a flaming bush, or pillar of fire, or mysterious cloud, but as one like us, sharing our joys and hopes and dreams, but also our sorrows.”

I read this bit of wisdom to mean that God wanted to meet us “face to face” and so God sent Jesus into the world…FULLY HUMAN. But we know that Jesus was also FULLY DIVINE.

As Luke reports it, the TRANSFIGURATION began with the change in the Lord’s face. The Glory of God transfigured The Lord’s face, revealing the HUMANITY of Jesus of Nazareth and the DIVINITY of Jesus the Christ.

The three witnesses to this “revelation event” were unable to comprehend the significance of what happened on the mountaintop, in spite of The Voice from heaven. It was simply too much for them to wrap their minds around. However, the memory of Jesus Christ’s glorification that day must have come rushing back to them after Easter morning, helping them to better understand Resurrection…what it means to be raised from the dead.

With all that has been written and said about the Transfiguration of The Lord, at its core, it is simply a preview of Easter Glory. This brief glimpse of The Eternal Christ most certainly helped transform the apostles and disciples into an Easter people. The Church wisely offers us the opportunity to reflect on and to be inspired by that day so that we are better able to comprehend what it is that awaits us at the end of the Lenten season.

Like Peter, James, and John, it takes time and effort on our part to transform from being followers of The Teacher into a believing and rejoicing Easter people. It takes time to wrap our minds around the hope that if we do our best to transform ourselves through prayer, fasting, and charity…when we are called out of our earthly bodies, we will experience the fullness of Transubstantiation. We will share in Christ’s glory.

God wanted to see us face to face in this world…so that we might look at God face to face in the next world…and on that day, our faces will shine like the Son’s.

So, as we make our way back down the mountain to the Monday morning of the Second week of Lent, let’s show our best face to our God, and to one another, through the transforming practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Third Sunday of Lent
Lk 13:1-9
March 20, 2022

With a bit of online research (Google), I learned that in a favorable climate, and with proper care, a fig tree will bear a good crop about three to four years after planting. In climates like the Holy Land enjoys, mild winters and lengthy, warm summers, the fig tree is known to produce two crops in one season.

Figs are an important food source, especially in Middle Eastern countries where they are eaten fresh or dried. Figs can be brewed into an alcoholic beverage, and leaves are steeped for a tea. The fruit has medicinal uses and is rich in nutrients. The leaves are used to spice food and are even fed to livestock.

The tree is also grown for shade, which is critical in hot, arid desert climates, and is prized in ornamental gardens. Fig fruit is an important food source for wildlife, including bees. Moreover, its seed is dispersed by birds and animals, accounting for its propagation.

The root system does not grow deep into the earth, but rather, it spreads out, close to the surface. Consequently, it is important to see that the topsoil does not dry out. However, too much water can “drown” the tree that needs to be watered slowly and deeply about every two weeks. If the leaves start to shrivel and dry out, the tree needs water. In other words, it demands attention and care.

The people questioning Jesus about sin and punishment…the first part of this Gospel passage…knew all of this from lived experience. His listeners, whose quality of life was, in many ways, dependent on the fig tree, were familiar with the tree’s growing patterns and many uses. Moreover, they quite likely appreciated the reluctance to cut down a tree that hadn’t produced in three years.

It only stands to reason that they would easily grasp the meaning of His little parable and quickly make the connection with their spiritual lives. We, who are acquainted with figs by way of the cookie or the occasional jar of fancy jam, might need a moment.

The imagery is a brilliant reminder of how short our earthly lives are…and how little time we have…no matter how long we might live…to produce good fruit.

All who heard the parable, maybe even sitting under the shade of a fig tree at the time, must have thought of the countless ways their good deeds could nourish and nurture and support life in their home, neighborhood, or synagogue. The little story might also have caused them to think about ways that they could better care for their spiritual lives to promote an abundance of good deeds. Finally, it might well have occurred to people who were living among and dependent upon fig trees, that the seeds of goodness spread and multiply.

Much of the wisdom of the story might be lost on those of us who may not have even seen a fig tree. Still, the most hopeful note comes at the conclusion. The Gardner argues for a reprieve!

Christ The Good Shepherd is also The Good Gardener. Lent is the opportunity to do what is necessary to make good use of the extra time He has earned for us. So…as we approach the midpoint of Lent, consider what more you might do during this time to ensure a fruitful crop…or even two!

Fourth Sunday of Lent
Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
March 27, 2022

Did it work? Did the emotional and heartfelt plea of the father win over the anger and bitter resentment of the older brother? Did he leave his work and join the celebration? Did he welcome his brother home?

Jesus leaves us to ponder the ending of this family saga.

The tax collectors and sinners who heard Jesus weave this tale probably imagined an ending much differently than the Pharisees and scribes who were also listening.

Those with a “checkered past” were quite likely focused on the plain meaning of the parable: God rejoices in the return of a repentant sinner. Immediately identifying with the wayward son and overjoyed by the encouragement the story offers, they quite possibly ended the story at the celebration.

The Pharisees and scribes, by contrast, are described by Luke as “complaining.” Jesus was revealing God’s infinite mercy and forgiveness. They rejected this Divine revelation. They saw things much differently. For them, God sits on a seat of justice. Sinners are to be punished, not forgiven, and certainly not rewarded with a celebration.

Their sympathies were drawn to the loyal, hardworking, and law-abiding son, with whom they closely identified. Their sense of self-righteousness clouded their vision. For them, the inexcusable…unforgivable offenses of the self-indulgent brother were compounded by what they must have perceived as a further example of the foolishness and incompetence of the father. To describe them as “complaining” is quite likely an understatement.

And while Jesus provides no ending to the parable, we know with certainty how things ended for the Pharisees and scribes. They were complicit in Jesus’s arrests, sham trial, and execution. They ended the story by killing The Story Teller. But they could not “kill the story.” The Good News that Jesus brought continues to live, offering hope to sinners!

Clearly, this is a lesson about the joy that God feels when “what is lost is found.” But the Gospel passage reporting the parable provides another extremely important lesson. The “complainers” teach us the consequences of missing an opportunity.

So, what kind of ending would you write to the tale of the prodigal son? Did the emotional and heartfelt plea of the father have any impact on you?

(Hint: If you take full advantage of the opportunities that the Lenten Season offers…you will end the story…and your own earthly life…with one short sentence. And they ALL lived happily ever after!)

Fifth Sunday of Lent
Jn 8:1-11
April 3, 2022

If you happened to watch any of the confirmation hearings for the most recent nominee to the United States Supreme Court…or read summaries of the “highlights” and weren’t left at least a little disappointed or unnerved, maybe shocked or even embarrassed, it might be wise to spend a bit more time with this Sunday’s Gospel passage, commonly referred to as “The woman caught in adultery.”

The tone and demeanor of many of those doing the questioning followed the pattern of the last three confirmation hearings: “accusatory” and “adversarial.” In theory, the exercise is meant to ensure that the most qualified candidate is called to serve our country. In practice, the process seems to have become something of a “witch hunt.” Foregoing honest and relevant inquiry, the examiners perform like self-righteous prosecutors…even executioners…stones at the ready.

Also troubling is the way this hostile approach to a task of such great consequence demonstrates the lack of capacity for people in power to communicate with one another…even as they JUDGE one another. When this happens, the common good suffers.

This rush to judge, condemn, and crucify appears to be of epidemic proportion. It seems more and more difficult to have a civil discussion…without judgement and condemnation…within families, neighborhoods, workplaces, even faith communities. We stay close to the rock pile of our own beliefs and ideas…so that we are in easy reach of a stone to hurl.

Do you disagree?

Seriously, don’t you find that there is a whole lot of stone-throwing going on? Such behavior is not consistent with the Gospel.

The takeaway from this passage is so obvious and simple.

Put down the stone…and take a knee! In other words, stop judging and condemning. Put down the stone…Go and sin no more!

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Lk 22:14—23:56
April 10, 2022

Every news station, (REGARDLESS OF POLITICAL LEANINGS) broadcast a report of the atrocities the invaders committed in a village named Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine.

Before the footage aired, each (REGARDLESS OF POLITICAL LEANINGS) gave a very strong warning that the images about to be seen were graphic and highly disturbing. Every reporter, in their own words, added an explanation that it was extremely important that the carnage filmed by “actual witnesses” be seen throughout the world so that humanity appreciates what has occurred.

This seemed particularly important since the invaders are claiming that the entire thing was staged. The perpetrators’ defense, in spite of the apocalyptic damage that was clearly inflicted on this community, is that “it never happened.”

One network went a step further. Beginning with a black and white photograph from the U.S. Civil War, and moving forward through modern history, other “iconic pictures” depicting the extreme suffering resulting from various wars were displayed. As this montage of horrors was shown, the reporter explained, that regardless of how painful it is to see, these images should not be forgotten…so that this kind of inhumane violence is never repeated.

But these things have been repeated…over and over and over again.

No matter how often we see “war movies and documentaries” or listen to the testimony of survivors, war and violence continue. It benefits us to learn from the past, but the lesson does not seem to change our behavior. Pondering history is enough to leave one hopeless.

And so, during Holy Week, The Church invites us to ponder SALVATION HISTORY in a special way. It is our tradition on Palm Sunday and again on Good Friday to proclaim, in its entirety, one of the versions of The Lord’s Passion. In its own way, the events leading to the Crucifixion and death of Jesus of Nazareth is a montage of horror.

It’s all here. Political wrangling and power struggles, greed and envy, deceit, misunderstanding, weakness and betrayal, false accusations giving way to false testimony, fear, misinformation, and mob rule, torture, abuse, and finally…EXECUTION! A true montage of evil. It can’t get much worse.

Still, we hear this story…twice…each year…so that we remember and never forget. And it is most important that we DO REMEMBER, because many want us to forget. Many deny these things ever happened. Many want to perpetuate this cycle of evil.

But this is what we Christians remember…and celebrate…and believe!

After every Good Friday, there comes an Easter Sunday. Our hope rests in Jesus Christ. It is by His Cross and Resurrection our world is redeemed. In spite of the evil that threatens hope itself…HOPE IN CHRIST DOES NOT DISAPPOINT! And so, we shoulder our own special crosses and follow our Savior to the mountaintop with confidence.

In these dark times, be especially attentive to the “Story of Salvation.” In truth, it is a montage of mercy and love. Always remember and never forget…Our Hope is in the Lord Who Brings Life out of Death!

Easter Sunday The Resurrection of the Lord
Jn 20:1-9
April 17, 2022

If you don’t use it…you lose it!

That has certainly proven to be the case with the Spanish language which I worked so hard to master while in college. I was quite proud of the level of fluency I had achieved. Of course, I was making a conscious effort to learn and speak a “foreign language” so that I could graduate. It was a requirement.

But…if you don’t use it…you lose it! I didn’t, and I did…for the most part anyway.

However, on the 5th Sunday of Lent, I went to Mass at a primarily Hispanic parish. The Second Reading was Philippians 3:8-14. It was proclaimed in Spanish. In spite of the slow, deliberate, and highly reverent delivery of the lector, I could not understand a thing…except for this.

I heard and TOTALLY understood the words…muerta…esperanza…y Jesu Cristo.


And so I got the message!

That Lenten experience got me thinking how God the Father sent God the Son into this world to teach humankind a new language…RESURRECTION!

RESURRECTION was a way of communicating that in which the entire universe was already quite fluent. From seasons to flowers, from butterflies to stars, RESURRECTION has always been a way for nature to speak the truth, that death is not an end but a new beginning.

All of nature spoke, and continues to speak, this extremely beautiful and profound language of RESURRECTION…all of nature that is…except for humankind.

On Easter morning, those closest to the Risen Christ began to learn this new and revolutionary language of hope…and joy. The Apostles and disciples began with a few simple but extremely powerful words: HE IS ALIVE! HE IS RISEN!

From that morning on, with the help of The Risen Christ, they expanded their vocabulary, which was perfected on The Feast of Pentecost. The language began to spread across the ancient world. Some became quite fluent. Others came to understand it but could only manage a few words. There were those who heard it spoken but ignored it, making little effort to comprehend what was being communicated through RESURRECTION.

Finally, and tragically, a few committed to stamping out this wonderful “God Speak.” They worked hard to drown out the beautiful message with the vile and harsh language of VIOLENCE, WAR, INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION, HATRED…and INTOLERANCE…a brilliant way of speaking lies. I’m referring to a dark language which is very effective in communicating the opposite of RESURRECTION…sin and death.

This effort continues to this very day. Sadly, in recent weeks, it has become the lingua franca…or the common language…of Eastern Europe…and is spreading around the world with lightning speed.

In general, it seems that folks are simply not “using” and so it appears that we are “losing” RESURRECTION. But, unlike ancient languages from the distant past, RESURRECTION will not fade into history. The language of eternal life will not become a “dead language.”

Seasons and flowers, butterflies and stars will always speak the truth that death is not an ending but a beginning. THE HOLY SPIRIT continues to sing a beautiful hymn of RE-creation…that is the background music for life in this world. If, for whatever reason, we don’t use it…we cannot lose it…because on Easter morning, Jesus Christ made certain that LIFE will always have the last word.

It is SO much easier to exist when we know…even a few simple words of RESURRECTION…words like DEATH…HOPE…and JESUS CHRIST!

This Easter morning, recommit to becoming perfectly fluent in RESURRECTION. Master this language and speak it without a hint of accent…accents like doubt or fear. Speak it to whoever will listen…especially to children.

Start slowly…try it now…say it out loud…DEATH…HOPE…and JESUS CHRIST! Keep saying those words until they are part of your vocabulary…rolling off your tongue without a second thought…and soon you will move on to… HE IS ALIVE! HE IS RISEN!

Learn RESURRECTION…this God language of love, as if your very life depends on it…because it does!


Second Sunday of Easter
Jn 20:19-31
April 24, 2022

Let’s begin with a question.

If you found yourself marooned on a desert island, which “attitude” or “frame of mind” would be more helpful…CERTAINTY that you would be rescued…or DOUBT that help will ever come?

Take a minute to chew on that.

Are you CERTAIN of your reply? Or could there be some room for DOUBT?

CERTAINTY and DOUBT are woven throughout Scripture and are very much present in the Gospels. Think about the DOUBT in Mary’s voice when the angel brought God’s invitation. She CERTAINLY desired to do all that God asked of her. Remember her words?

Behold the handmaid of the Lord…Be it done to me according to Thy will!

Nevertheless…there was the slightest note of doubt in her voice when she asked:

How can this be since I have no relations with a man?

Fast forward from the very beginning to close to the end. At The Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the overwhelming mood in the Upper Room was all about CERTAINTY. Those at table were certain of Jesus’s power to heal and drive out demons…even to raise the dead. They saw for themselves His power over nature as He calmed storms and walked on water. Don’t forget about changing water into the finest wine. They observed the reaction of great crowds as He taught and preached with “amazing” authority (the Gospels frequently describe how “all who heard were amazed”)…feeding this mass of humanity with a few fish and loaves before sending them home.

Very publicly, He shut down His enemies with a few brilliant words. They were there and witnessed all of this. He was indeed “other worldly.” That much was definite…of that much, they could be CERTAIN. Nevertheless, The Last Supper began with DOUBT.

There was doubt and confusion over why Jesus would wash their feet. There was doubt and uncertainty about who the betrayer might be. There was doubt and contention over which of them was most important. They even argued about that! There was doubt concerning where Jesus was about to go…and whether they were up to the journey.

The room was filled with CERTAINTY…but…there was space enough to accommodate DOUBT.

Then came Good Friday. The only thing certain about that day was the injustice of it all. That, together with the shocking brutality, total humiliation, and agonizing death. They were there…some at the very foot of the Cross, while others kept a safe distance. They witnessed all of this. And the experience triggered a rush of fear and doubt that sent them scurrying back to the Upper Room for safety.

Now, the atmosphere was thick with doubt. Until Easter morning, that is.
Mary Magdalene was the first, and then Peter and John, then later in the evening the couple from Emmaus. They all witnessed the Risen Christ, and their shock and grief gave way to the CERTAINTY that Jesus was alive. Trusting them, others believed.

Some might well have been of the opinion that it is possible…but wow…it is hard to imagine. They might not have fully doubted, but they had reservations.

And then came Thomas. He did not hold back. He was full of DOUBT, and he let it rip! His outpouring of DOUBT didn’t impact the CERTAINTY of those who had personally encountered the Risen Lord. In fact, responding to Thomas gave them an opportunity to relive their Easter experience, and, in that way, shore up the others who believed even though they did not see.

Enter Christ!

Now Thomas had a first-hand experience and all DOUBT gave way to CERTAINTY and a beautiful profession of faith. It is important to notice that The Lord did not admonish Thomas. In fact, He invited Thomas into the most intimate of contacts…touch my wounds!

DOUBT and CERTAINTY are woven throughout Sacred Scripture, and in this Upper Room encounter, the importance of each is very much evident. For this reason, Pope Francis counsels that:

Doubts are “vitamins of faith.” They help strengthen faith and make it more robust. They enable faith to grow, to become more conscious, free, and mature.

So, if you found yourself marooned on a desert island, which “attitude” or “frame of mind” would be more helpful…CERTAINTY that you would be rescued…or DOUBT that help will ever come?

Wouldn’t you want both?

If you hang onto the CERTAINTY that help is on the way, you won’t fall into total despair and “give up.” But if you season that CERTAINTY with a healthy dose of DOUBT, you will take the steps necessary to care for and protect yourself.

As an Easter people, we can be totally confident in the power of Resurrection and CERTAIN that, by His Holy Cross, Jesus had saved the world. But when we temper CERTAINTY with a little “Thomas DOUBT,” we are more inclined to take the steps to care for and protect ourselves while we wait to be saved.


Third Sunday of Easter
Jn 21:1-19 or 21:1-14
April 24, 2022

We’ve all heard the expression: My whole life flashed in front of my eyes! It’s used when someone has had a close call…or a narrow escape.

Actually, there has been a recent medical report that scans, taken on actively dying patients, register inordinate activity in the areas of the brain where memories are stored moments immediately before and after the heart ceases to beat. This suggests to researchers that there might well be a surge of memories prior to clinical death. Could there be some truth to the old saying? Interesting!

With that thought, let’s take a look at the Gospel…another description of a post-Resurrection encounter with The Risen Christ.

Early in the morning on a spring day, after a disappointing night of fishing on the Sea of Galilee, several of Jesus’s inner circle looked to the shore and saw something remarkable that must have caused a flood of memories. Peter, in particular, was profoundly affected by Who they saw sitting at a campfire…waiting.

The moment he heard the other Apostle say: It is the Lord! Peter must have remembered that day he and his brother and two of their friends left their boats, and nets, and catch, and even their families to follow Jesus to become Fishers of men! Yet, here he was, back doing what he had been doing when he received the call to discipleship.

Was this morning a “close call” for him? Did he “narrowly escape” returning to his old way of life, forgetting…or at least neglecting the responsibility that Jesus had entrusted to him?

Every detail of this encounter with The Risen Christ should have been a trigger, firing off a memory in Peter’s mind. Jumping out of the boat, like he once leaped into a raging sea, he made his way towards The Lord. We can say this much for certain: He was self-conscious. He felt exposed and took steps to “cover himself.”

Maybe this surge of embarrassment was brought on by the memory of how his lack of faith had once caused him to sink. Or possibly he was recalling other moments of doubt, impulsive behavior, silly comments, and even denial that he was known for as he journeyed with Jesus of Nazareth. Who can say?

But Christ did not dwell on the past. Nor did The Easter Jesus accuse Peter of neglecting his duties…regressing from Apostle to fisherman. What The Lord did do is remind Peter of the most important way to express love for Him…love for God. Service!

Lent was a time to draw closer to Jesus through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Then, on Easter morning, we celebrated. Now, as we move through the Easter Season towards Ordinary Time, there will be more and more “close calls” and “narrow escapes.” The opportunities to regress and resume our old ways are always there…luring us…tempting us…tricking and trapping us. Like Peter, we need to be reminded of how best to express our love and commitment to Jesus Christ. Service!

On that day when our heart finally rests, if our entire life does pass before our eyes…there will be countless reasons to feel self-conscious and embarrassed. Most people will suffer memories of times when they lacked faith, or suffered doubts, or acted impulsively, or made silly comments. Some will even remember moments of denial.

But hopefully, the Just Judge will look beyond those reasons to be embarrassed and ask only…HOW WELL DID YOU SERVE?

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Jn 10:27-30
May 8, 2022

This Sunday’s Gospel Reading is one of the shortest, but one most powerful proclaimed at Eucharist. It offers a lesson that our world today, is in desperate need of relearning…. assuming that humankind ever fully understood what Jesus is telling us here.

Let’s start with the ending.

We believe that we are created in the image and likeness of God.
This passage concludes: THE FATHER AND I ARE ONE! This declaration of unity helps us to better understand what it means for us to be created in the image and likeness of God.

God created us to reflect that unity…. that Divine ONENESS…by living together in peace and justice. We are led by the Good Shepherd, to move TOGETHER as one flock, one Body, towards a deeper union with our Creator. No one can separate us…or divide us…EXCEPT FOR US!

We have free will, and we ourselves can make the decision to leave the flock and move in a different direction. Sadly, many do choose to break away from one another…away from peace and justice…away from God. And tragically…that seems to be the direction many are choosing at this time. Rather than coming together as God’s people…as one… human family…. with mutual respect…care…and concern…AND TOLERANCE…we are becoming more and more judgmental and divided.

The tragedy in Ukraine should not come as any great surprise.
Countries all over the world are separating themselves from the human family, and going their own way. The very predictable result is…WAR….VIOLENCE…GREAT INJUSTICE AND SUFFERING.

Civil strife…and even civil war is epidemic. We Americans are not immune from this terrible spiritual disease. We are more divided in our opinions and views…maybe almost as divided as we were during our own civil war.

Way back in 2002, Catholic theologians (Franciscan) Fr. Richard Rohr and (Cistercian) Fr. Thomas Keating co-authored a book in which they wrote:

The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from Being itself, and from being one with everyone and everything. When we don’t know we are connected, we will invariably resort to some form of violence to get the dignity and power we lack. Contemplation of the gospel message gradually trains us not to make so much of differences, but to return to who we are—our True Selves in God—which is always beyond any nationality, religion, skin color, gender, sexuality, or any other possible labels.

If you spend some time contemplating this very brief Gospel passage and then dare to ask yourself: Do I hear The Lord’s voice?

Yes? But are you listening…really, really listening?

Do you understand what He is telling us?

Can you accept the call to be part ONE HUMAN FAMILY…caring for, listening to, tolerating and loving one another…even those who are different? Even enemies? If you can, you are indeed part of the flock that will never perish.

Fifth Sunday of Easter
Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35
May 14, 2022

On the Sunday after Easter, our Gospel Reading took us to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We heard how The Risen Christ had breakfast ready for Peter and several of his companions, who had an unsuccessful night of fishing. The Bible passage is packed with meaningful details, beautiful imagery, and powerful symbolism. But most folks only remember what happened at the end of the meal.

The Lord asked Peter the same question 3 times:

Peter…do you love me?
Peter…do you love me?
Peter…do you love me?

Now, over halfway through the Easter Season, the Church gives us a Gospel that carries us back to Holy Thursday. The passage begins with a very brief detail, but without a whole lot of imagery or symbolism. Nevertheless, that detail is of enormous significance.

When Judas had left them.

The very name of this individual conjures up a recollection of the most vile of betrayals, almost too raw to shake off before turning to and reflecting on The Lord’s discourse about GLORY…DISCIPLESHIP…AND LOVE!

John does not report any exchange between Jesus and the betrayer, as The Lord is about to be arrested and led off. But imagine for a moment how such a conversation might have gone. Possibly something like this:

Judas…when did you stop loving me?
Judas…why did you stop loving me?
Judas…did you ever really love me?

One might well question why the Church, at this point in the Easter Season, elects to take us back to The Last Supper. Moreover, why are we reminded about this tragic act of betrayal?
Maybe because, for most folks, the joy of Easter morning has begun to fade as we resume our day-to-day lives. By returning to the Upper Room, we have an opportunity to refresh our memories and deepen our understanding of, and appreciation for, The Paschal Mystery.

This is also a good time for us to ask ourselves a few questions…questions like:

Do I feel the call to conversion with the same intensity that I experienced during Lent?

Am I as focused on what discipleship asks of me as I was on Holy Thursday…as I recalled how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples?

Am I as mindful as I was on Good Friday, of all that Jesus endured in order to pay for our sins?

Have I continued to feel the excitement and joy of Easter morning?

The vile betrayal of Judas was a once-and-for-all event that can never be repeated. But, in our own small ways, we often betray our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is wise to remember that conversion is not a seasonal thing that we do during Lent…and then go back to business as usual. Conversion is a lifelong effort.

While we can measure our progress in a number of ways, how well we love and serve others, especially those in greatest need, is one of the finest ways to gauge how Christ-like we have become.

Thankfully, we are not left to our own devices in this work of conversion. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is both the Source and the Summit of our faith. The Lord Himself gave us the Eucharist so that we might join our hearts, our joys, and our sufferings…even the betrayals we endure…to His.

In this way, we give meaning and value to the challenges we face in this world, and at the same time are given the strength and courage we need to sustain us in our efforts to be more holy.

When we do as Jesus commanded on Holy Thursday…and break the Bread and share the Cup in memory of Him, our appetite for the eternal banquet is awakened. We are given the slightest glimpse of what those who have gone before us…those who embraced the challenge of lifelong conversion…are now experiencing…THE GLORY OF GOD!

We become excited about the possibility of joining them.

And so here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Do you love Christ? IF SO…

Continue to nourish yourself with the Eucharist…and your love will deepen and increase…and bear great fruit.

Do you love Christ? IF SO…

Love and serve others…especially those in greatest need.

Do you love Christ? IF SO…

Keep moving towards the glory through the process of conversion.

Do all of this in memory of Him Who died so that we might live in eternal Glory!

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Jn 14:23-29
May 22, 2022

Our First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles offers us today an extremely valuable lesson on how to resolve the social/spiritual crisis that is so prevalent in every aspect of our lives.

Who can dispute that we live in a time of enormous change brought about by rapid advances in science, technology, and communications? While there are great advantages to progress, there are also challenges, many of a social/spiritual nature, like those faced by the fledgling Church.

The Early Christian community was, of course, Jewish. But, as the Apostles and disciples intensified their efforts to evangelize, the numbers of Gentiles attracted to the Good News increased substantially. This created a social/spiritual crisis as intense and critical as any we face today.

Jewish religious law controlled every aspect of day-to-day life, including “table fellowship” (who you could eat with and what you could serve). “The Law” was settled and was to be strictly interpreted and strictly observed. Disobedience, oftentimes, resulted in swift and severe punishment.

So, the Apostles and disciples found themselves in a conundrum. How could they be “in community” with people whom “The Law” forbid them from sharing a meal? Weren’t they required to “stand by things that had been decided” for generations?

As they searched for a resolution, they must have recalled the Lord’s words: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law…” (Matt. 5:17)

At the same time, however, they most certainly enjoyed vivid recollections of the numerous times when Jesus seemed to…shall we say… “relax” The Law.

The Gospels offer multiple examples of The Lord appearing to back away from rather than “standing rigidly by things decided” with the same strict, judgmental, and punitive manner of the religious leaders of His times. However, there is one Law that, to Jesus, was not merely unshakable, but one which He embodied. Jesus Christ gave Flesh to the Law of Love.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31).

The manner in which they negotiated this first social/spiritual obstacle to unity and peace within the Christian community proves that the Advocate sent by God to help them to learn and remember had truly come to dwell with them. Respectful of and standing by the long-established Laws regarding table fellowship, our ancestors in faith came to an acceptable compromise.

They remembered how Jesus met every social/spiritual crisis with patience, forgiveness, tolerance, and above all…LOVE! And they learned that when they trusted the Holy Spirit to guide them, they would somehow come to a deeper understanding of God’s will and God’s way…and in that way, find PEACE!

There are so many issues disturbing our PEACE, dividing us and depleting our hope for the future. We really need to REMEMBER how the Apostles and disciples negotiated social/spiritual crisis by looking to the Holy Spirit for guidance. We need to LEARN from their example. When we are, first and foremost, obedient to the LAW OF LOVE, interacting with one another with patience, forgiveness, and tolerance…we will once again live in PEACE!

Seventh Sunday of Easter
Jn 17:20-26
May 29, 2022

As a 73-year-old orphan, I have come to a deep appreciation for the importance of absence. It was only after my parents died…and were forever absent…that I came to understand how much I longed for their presence.

When I was young and immature, and struggling to be independent, I looked for every opportunity to “be on my own.” But now that they are gone from this world, I am constantly turning to them for advice, guidance, consolation, comfort, and support…but they are not here. In a very real way, their absence has had a more powerful impact on me than their presence had.

Their absence has helped me to understand what a gift it is to be dependent on my parents’ love and wisdom and generosity. Their absence enables me to fully appreciate all they did for me…the very things, that, because of my own immaturity, I took for granted.

Finally, their absence motivates me to recover and treasure memories of life lessons that they struggled to teach…and as a kid, lessons I all too often resisted or ignored.

Everyone who has lost someone who provided all that a loving and caring parent gives to their children fully understands that absence makes room for a mature appreciation of what seems to be lost…but, in fact, is in safe keeping in our memories…and in our hearts.

The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord is a coming-of-age story about the early Church. All three Readings somehow describe The Risen Christ, after a period of time, ABSENTING HIMSELF from the Apostles and disciples, leaving them with His promise that He would not leave them orphaned.

By returning to where He had come from, Christ gave His first followers the space to mature and grow. And with that space came all the benefits of “absence” without the sense of loss…because He kept His promise to send the Holy Spirit to dwell with and within the Church…continuing to provide guidance, consolation, comfort and support, peace and love!

As we wait for The Lord’s return…because that is an important part of today’s Feast, the promise that Christ will return, we are called to accept with appreciation and use with great enthusiasm all that Jesus gave to His followers when He was physically present to them. We have available to us all that they enjoyed before the Son returned to The Father. In the Gospel and through the Eucharist, what the world might regard as absent…is very much present.

If we could only appreciate what has been entrusted to us with maturity…like grownups…we would be more capable of meeting the great challenges of our times with the same courage and conviction of our ancestors in faith.

And of course…we have the Holy Spirit! We have not been left orphaned.

Maybe this Feast…and these Readings could be summed up with a few words that, now and again, we all need to hear: GROW UP! THERE’S LOTS OF WORK TO BE DONE.

Pentecost Sunday
JN 7:37-39
June 5, 2022

Beginning on Friday, May 27, and continuing for the next 9 days, many Christians around the world are praying a Novena to the Holy Spirit. Bishop Gruss encouraged the people of the Diocese of Saginaw to participate in this ancient spiritual exercise of our Church. We are praying for what were identified during the Patristics era of the Church (100 A.D.-450 A.D.) the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I would suggest that we be cautious with the manner in which we think about these “gifts.” They are not like Easter eggs that need to be found. They are and always have been right in our very midst…open…abundant…and free for the taking.

These “gifts” are not like birthday presents that mark the passage of time and come only once a year. The Holy Spirit has these tools for the building of the Kingdom of God continually available.

Moreover, these “gifts” of the Holy Spirit are not like wedding gifts that are stored, wrapped in tissue paper, put away for safekeeping. They are intended to be used, and used frequently, to maintain unity and peace within our Church and our world.

Wisdom: If everyone would use the Gift of Wisdom when listening and reading, we could eliminate “fake news,” and, once and for all, TRUTH would prevail.

Understanding: How can we be authentic and effective Kingdom builders if we don’t at least make an effort to listen to, try to understand, and learn from other points of view?

Right Judgment (Counsel): When we look to The Gospel/The Word of the Lord and interpret it with the same tolerance, patience, inclusiveness, forgiveness, and love as Jesus spoke it to us, we are more likely to make good (at least better) decisions, avoid the sin of division, and live-in peace and harmony as God wills us to.

Courage (Fortitude): The first Christians courageously faced hungry lions. Today, we find ourselves thrown into the arena with roaring beasts such as prejudice, bigotry, anger, materialism, greed, and envy. More than ever, we need the Gift of Courage so that these things do not consume and devour us.

Knowledge: It is very, very dangerous to presume that we know what’s “right” without prayerfully consulting and reflecting on Sacred Scripture. Jesus identified Himself as “The Way.” It is a mark of spiritual and emotional intelligence to follow His directions…rather than charting our own course.

Reverence (Piety): This might well be one of those gifts we are tempted to put away for “safekeeping” rather than put into daily use. This “gift” enables us to see and love in one another what our Creator sees and loves in each of us. In order to be fully effective, we need to employ this gift while we are living in the “no judgment zone.” That’s not a place most people are inclined to pitch their tent. Still, once you get used to the climate there…it actually is a very pleasant place to live.

Wonder and Awe (Fear of the Lord): HOW GREAT THOU ART! Folks love that hymn. But would we sing it with such enthusiasm if we stopped to really reflect on what it means? If we genuinely Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made, how can we not commit to protecting our Earth and using its resources justly?

It really comes down to this: On the first Pentecost, The Holy Spirit infused our world with 7 extraordinary Gifts…given to us in abundance…continually renewed and intended to be used. If, in fact, we all accepted and employed these Gifts, then Jesus’s prayer to the Father would be fulfilled.

And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. (John 17:11)

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Jn 16:12-15
June 12, 2022

For some reason, I’ve always liked the word “ANTITHESIS.”

Even though it’s a pretty useful expression, it is rarely heard in general conversation. It seems more like a “school word.” It is defined: A person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else.

I find it a useful word to use when I am stumped in my efforts to understand or explain a person or thing whom or which is nearly impossible to describe or explain. In other words, when we can’t wrap our minds around an idea, it is sometimes helpful to think of what that idea IS NOT.

The Holy Trinity might be one of those things that Jesus wanted to explain in detail…but appreciated that His Apostles and disciples “could not bear it” as it is just too big a thing for us to wrap our minds around. The Lord deferred to the Holy Spirit to enlighten us as to how Three Divine Persons eternally exist within One God. After all these centuries, the “Threeness of God” is challenging even for a believer to conceptualize, let alone explain to an outsider.

Why shouldn’t it be? The Scriptures aren’t exactly helpful. The elements are all there, in both the Old as well as the New Testament. But nowhere in the Bible will we find the Trinitarian Doctrine (which is the very bedrock of our Christian faith) neatly defined. It was an insight that has come to us over the centuries as theologians wove together the various strands of revelation…the little hints or glimpses that God has given to help us better know and understand the Divine Self.

I wonder if this is one of those times when the word “antithesis” might come in handy.

Consider the invasion of Ukraine. As horrific as this war has been in terms of human suffering, what I have found to be absolutely heartbreaking is the spiritual devastation. The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has publicly supported the invasion. In short, Christians are killing other Christians with Church approval.

Christians who supposedly believe in the same God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…are locked in mortal combat with one another. And the truly heartbreaking thing is that the religious leader of the invading force supports this action.

Christians who believe that we are all created in the image and likeness of God are firing rockets at nothing short of the image and likeness of God. That is the antithesis of The Blessed Trinity, Who exists in eternal harmony, total unity, mutual respect, perfect peace, and infinite love. What we are witnessing in Eastern Europe is the antithesis of The Blessed Trinity.

Tragically, we do not have to look overseas (and to the Orthodox Christians) for concrete examples of the antithesis of God’s undivided unity and perfect peace, harmony, mutual respect, and love. Recently, a reliable Catholic news source published what they must believe to be reliable results from a poll conducted in mid-May.

The poll confirms what we know to be the situation. There is a clear…and growing…gap between American Catholics and Church leaders regarding a number of social issues with moral and spiritual implications. Both sides of these issues appear to be dug in and immovable. There is division, discord, and even disrespect within our Church…THE BODY OF CHRIST…and this is definitely the antithesis of what we celebrate today…THE BLESSED TRINITY!

I might not be able to conceptualize it…or offer a clear and convincing explanation of it…but I know when it is missing because I feel its absence and it hurts. We live in a period of salvation history which is the very antithesis of our God, Who created us in the Divine image and likeness. When we fail to co-exist in harmony, unity, mutual respect, peace, and love…we fall short of what we were created to be. And then WE, ourselves, become the antithesis of the Blessed Trinity.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Lk 9:11b-17
June 19, 2022

Our Bishop is vigorously urging the faithful of our Diocese to become involved in the “National Eucharistic Revival.” The hope is that this call to prayer, catechesis, and reflection will invigorate the full, conscious, and active participation in The Mass. After all, the Celebration of The Eucharist is the very source and summit of our faith.

It is one of the many tragedies of our times that this effort is even necessary. Dorothy Day, a 20th century Catholic voice for social justice, once quoted a friend as saying: If I believed what you believe…nothing could keep me away from Holy Communion.

But for a number of years now, that has been increasingly the case. More and more Catholics seem to be MIA (Missing in Action).

Some suggest that a “Revival” is just a “reboot” made necessary by the pandemic. But statistics prove that there was most definitely a “Eucharistic distancing” among the faithful long before we were told of the need for “social distancing.” Why is that the case?

There is certainly no easy answer.

A number of issues make this Eucharistic distancing an extremely complicated crisis…and it really is crisis level when we are not celebrating the very “source and summit” of our faith. When so many have forgotten to do as The Lord asks: Do this in remembrance of me…a revival of that memory becomes an urgent matter.

A worthy starting point in this hoped for “reawakening” is THE REAL PRESENCE…the Presence that Dorothy Day’s friend was referring to. When we gather in His Name, Christ IS present to us. Moreover, when we gather in “remembrance” of Him at the Table of the Word and the Communion Table, Christ is with us in the most powerful of ways. Most of us believe this to be true. So then why do we stay away?

Possibly, we have lost our appreciation for the REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST because we have lost the ability to be REALLY PRESENT to one another. Conversations have been reduced to brief FaceTime calls…or Zoom meetings. Personal letter writing…even greeting cards and invitations are more and more a thing of the past, replaced by emails. Even emails have been abbreviated to tweets, and tweets to “emojis.” (Small digital pictures or symbols used in place of words in electronic messaging.) We are communicating with one another with pictures and symbols…much like the so-called cave dwellers. Is that really progress?

None of this, in and of itself, is bad. This technology has many benefits to it. But it can be harmful when it starts to replace the desire to BE TRULY PRESENT…face to face…shoulder to shoulder…spending time…sharing meals with one another. The most important and life-giving relationships we have can’t help but suffer when we try to sustain them with digital pictures and symbols.

What has made communications easier and more convenient has arguably caused us to lose the ability to communicate in the most loving and intimate of ways…by being FULLY…ACTIVELY…CONSCIOUSLY…AND PHYSICALLY PRESENT TO ONE ANOTHER.

Is it possible that better communication systems have actually caused us to lose touch with one another? Have we forgotten how to be present to one another, and, as a result, forgotten how to be present to Christ…Who is REALLY PRESENT TO US…in the Eucharist? Who can say with certainty?

What we do know with absolute certainty is that Christ is fully present to us in the Eucharist and desires more than anything that we be present to Him…and to one another in this celebration, which is the very source and summit of our faith.

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 9:51-62
June 26, 2022

Every now and again, after the Creed, when the Prayers of the Faithful have been completed, the Cantor will introduce a hymn to be sung during the Presentation of Gifts, that blends just perfectly with the Readings and Homily.

When that happens, the message is reinforced…driven home…maybe even expanded on. As a result, our song is not only part of our worship but it also takes on a transformative power that enables us to make a deeper commitment to the Gospel.

I, for one, will find myself “humming” that kind of “transformative song” over and over again. The tune becomes the background music for my day. I can’t get the song out of my mind…and with every “replay” The Word of the Lord sinks deeper into my heart. Who hasn’t come out of Christmas Mass singing Silent Night…over and over and over…continuing to imagine a cold, star filled night sky over the little town of Bethlehem?

When I sat down to reflect on this week’s Readings, a song came to my mind, and has continued to “replay” …over and over and over. I can’t seem to shake it.

No Roman Catholic Liturgist or Music Minister would ever consider using this song during Mass. It is secular not sacred music. Even though it hit the charts way back in 1970, it might even be familiar to young people today, because it has been sung by other artist than singer/song writer Carole King. The title is: Where You Lead, I Will Follow.

Loving you the way I do
I only wanna be with you
And I would go to the ends of the earth
Cause darling, to me that’s what you’re worth

Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to

If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead.

It might be secular music, that arguably does not BELONG in Church. But these lyrics…at least for me…drive home the message in today’s Readings. These secular words have TRANSFORMATIVE POWER. The song, although not one of “Glory and Praise” reinforces, and expands on the four-pronged lesson that Jesus taught on His way to His Passion and death.


Christ’s needs us to follow Him through His Passion and death, through the Garden Tomb and finally into the Eternal Kingdom. Because, HE NEEDS US TO BE WITH HIM, The Holy Spirit awakens in our hearts a deep love for our God, which certainly inspires us to FOLLOW WHERE JESUS LEADS. In this Gospel passage The Lord tells us where and how to follow.

We are called to follow Him past those who reject, or ridicule or persecute us.

We are called to follow Him with trusting hearts; doing our best to give over control of the details to Him.

We are called to follow Him with a sense of urgency that requires us to act immediately.

We are called to follow Him without reservations…giving our relationship with Christ priority over all else.

And if we follow Him as He teaches us in this Gospel, we will be TRANSFORMED every step of the journey until we arrive in the Kingdom…where our TRANSFORMATION will be complete….and we will be like Christ for all Eternity.

Dig up your old vinyl copy of Carole King’s Tapestry album…or if you are too young for that…click onto You Tube…and listen to this powerful song. Just see if it doesn’t become the background music for your day. I bet it will help drive today’s Readings deeper into your mind and your heart.

It just might help to transform you into an even better disciple.

Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to!

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
July 3, 2022

There is an often-quoted line from the Book of Job that recent events bring to mind. “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!”

Last week, The Supreme Court of the United States of America “gave back” a freedom to the people of the State of New York. The freedom restored to them involved the right to bear arms without concern for certain restrictions that had previously been imposed by state law.

The very next day, which happened to be the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the highest court of our land, according to one way of thinking, “took away” a freedom. Obviously, I’m talking about what many refer to as “the freedom to choose.”

A friend, reacting to these two landmark rulings, referred to them as “convoluted.” She finds the logic of the Court hard to follow.
In her mind, while the reversal of Roe-v-Wade is intended to afford protection to human life, the lifting of restrictions on firearms increases the threat to the sanctity of human life. She makes a good point. There seems to be some inconsistency here.

One thing that is abundantly clear, the two decisions have not been received in a peaceful atmosphere…certainly not the kind of authentic and lasting “peace” that is the theme in all three of our Readings. We Catholic Christians must be very careful that we are not drawn into the dark forces that are energizing the extreme division that has erupted.

As we navigate these troubled waters, it is more important than ever that we remember that: The LORD gave us FREE WILL…and the LORD will NOT take our FREE WILL away! Moreover, no authority on earth can deprive us of this precious gift from God.

But at the same time, we must keep foremost in our minds the fact that God also sent Jesus Christ into this world so that we might learn how to employ our free will in a way that reflects and promotes the Divine Will. And it is God’s will that we should live together in peace, justice, mutual respect…and yes…LOVE!

Through our Baptism, and armed with the Gospel, we, like the 72 disciples, are empowered to face off and prevail against demons, and serpents, and scorpions…and every other evil force seeking to disrupt our peace…THE PEACE OF CHRIST. Clearly, these destroyers of peace are out in full force. Christ needs each of us to be like minded and committed to this great and universal peace-keeping mission.

The Pontifical Academy of Life has offered us some sage guidance as to how we can move forward from the events of the past week. Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia is quoted as saying: “The killing of an innocent human being can never be considered a right. This goes for abortion, it goes for war, it goes for the death penalty, and for the selling and use of arms. Our society as a whole, not just the west, must outlaw murder in all of its forms.”

In other words, we Catholic Christians need to alert our country…and the rest of the world…that the events that have sparked division have, in fact, offered us an opportunity make a greater commitment AGAINST EVERY FORM OF VIOLENCE.

This is an opportunity for humanity to rethink all choices…joining forces to build a more just and equitable society capable of protecting life and caring for everyone, especially mothers.

On this Independence Day weekend, all Americans would do well to consider that lasting and authentic PEACE is not a political matter that can be legislated into existence by any civil, or, for that matter, religious authority. Our Creator is the only Source of true, lasting, and authentic Peace.

In Christ, God has given us PEACE. But when we make any choice that is contrary to the Gospel…we, ourselves, take it away.

And so, in times such as this, we turn to the Gospel to begin the restoration process…the restoring of what seems to have crumbled. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are charged with the duty to restore and preserve the PEACE.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 10:25-37
July 10, 2022

During the early weeks of the invasion, the first lady of Ukraine gave an interview to an American journalist. Speaking from an undisclosed location because of security concerns, Olena Zelenska ended her plea for support from western nations with a profound statement:

Don’t get used to our grief!

Her concern that the world not get used to the grief of her country is quite valid. Research done by philanthropic organizations proves that donors often succumb to “giving fatigue.” There comes a point when generosity is exhausted and charitable giving slows or totally shuts down.

(This condition is all too familiar to most pastors, trying to keep a parish operating in the black, while still managing the unexpected emergencies…like leaky roofs, plumbing problems, etc. etc. etc.)

A close relative of “giving fatigue” is “compassion fatigue.” It is not uncommon, even among the most caring of folks, to reach an emotional saturation point. There is a limit to how much suffering most of us can witness before we start to self-protect and take a few steps back…or tune out altogether.

“Compassion fatigue” can hit after we hear the same thing over and over and over from a troubled friend. It can explain why we reach for the remote, rather than listen to horrific details of the most recent mass shooting. It’s not as if we become bored by the anguished testimony of the latest victims. It is a matter of being so overwhelmed with the horror of it all that we become numb to the tragedy. We become used to the grief. So, we turn off the news.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is more than a simple, little “feel good” story. And it does not seem to be limited to a way of defining the concept of “neighbor.” Actually, the multiple characters make for a pretty complex lesson that deserves a lot of thought and reflection. It’s unclear what caused the priest and the Levite to pass on by. For that matter, the innkeeper’s role in the drama is worth pondering.

Scripture scholars propose various suggestions for what appears to be a callous reaction to human suffering. Some are more forgiving than others. It might just be that they suffered from “giving…or compassion fatigue” or a combination of both.

The unnamed Samaritan, by contrast, hung in there. He observed, immediately reacted, followed through with his care, and then committed to the future needs of the victim. No “donor fatigue” on his part.

The Lord highlights the fact that all of this is unexpected in that the benefactor was a foreigner. Of course, this stretches the concept of “neighbor.” But, at the same time, this little parable highlights what is expected from disciples of Jesus Christ. The story stretches us!

Our Second Reading opens with the reminder that Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God. By sending The Son into this world of constant challenge and suffering, The Father is telling us that God does not get used to our grief…but is continually present to heal, strengthen, support, inspire, and forgive. There is no Donor Fatigue on God’s part…even to the point of sacrificing Jesus.

There is no Donor Fatigue on the part of Jesus, Who gave the last drop of His Blood to pay our sin debt. And even as the Son is the image of the invisible Father, through our Baptisms, we are called to be an image of Jesus Christ.

We reflect Christ in a clear and brilliant way when we are “good Samaritans.” Obviously, we cannot respond to every cause, every tragedy, every need. Pain and suffering are all around us. Sometimes, our resources run low and we can’t help but feel fatigued. Still, we must never get used to the grief of others. When we lose our compassion…we lose a critical connection to Christ.

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 10:38-42
July 17, 2022

I was talking with a young couple who will be celebrating the Sacrament of Christian Marriage this fall. At some point in our conversation, I asked the question that often comes to mind when conversing with an engaged couple: How did you guys meet?

They looked at each other and smiled. Almost simultaneously they responded: We met in chemistry class in college.

It was the groom who went on to explain that they sat next to each other and there was immediate chemistry in chemistry  In other words, this was a “love at first sight” situation.

Please understand that I DO NOT subscribe to the publication. Still, some limited “online research” about the concept led me to an article in the issue of Bride’s Magazine that hit the newsstands this past May…in time for the opening of wedding season.

In an article titled: Can Love at First Sight Actually Lead to a Lasting Marriage? Author Lauren Levy relied on the observations and experiences of four apparently well-credentialed marriage therapists. Each agreed that there is such a thing as instant attraction…fireworks…a moment when nothing else matters…a feeling that completely engulfs you…that you’ve never felt before and don’t want to end.

Still, these experts caution that while immediate attractions of this intensity are real, the heightened feelings are hard to sustain. The so-called “honeymoon phase” ends after about six months, and very often, so does the relationship!

The experts offer a bit of encouragement, however. They counsel that when couples take the time to really get to know one another, the spark can turn into a flame that fuels and energizes a lifelong marriage. However, this takes work…that never really stops.

(By the way, in spite of their mutual and immediate attraction, my young friends have taken the time needed to insure a lifelong commitment to their marriage covenant. But I will keep them in prayer because…as all married couples know…it is HARD WORK!)

By now, you might be wondering if I’ve taken leave of my senses. First, I admit to reading an article in Bride’s Magazine. And then, even worse, I share what I’ve read in my weekly reflection. But before you delete me, consider this: The Church has long been referred to as THE BRIDE OF CHRIST!

This image of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church is very much supported by passages in the Old as well as the New Testament. The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes to great lengths to unpack this metaphor, and to explain the symbolism in great detail. It really boils down to Christ’s desire to enter into the most intimate of relationships with us by joining Himself in an everlasting covenant with the Church and “never stops caring for her (His Bride) as for His own Body.”

I would suggest that, for Mary, the visit by Jesus was very much like a case of “Love at first sight” in the extreme! We are told how she sat at The Lord’s feet, basically hanging on His every word. Can’t you imagine an instant attraction…fireworks…a moment when nothing else mattered to her…not even sharing the burden of hospitality with her sister? Can’t you imagine the feeling that completely engulfed her…a feeling that Mary had never felt before…and didn’t want to end?

Martha on the other hand, appears to have been so distracted by the need to sweep the floor that she was not swept off her feet by their Guest…at least not the way her sister was. Still, later in the Gospel, after Lazarus died, she is the first to proclaim her faith: “Yes, Lord! I have come to believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” (John 11:27).

On the surface, this is a lesson that echoes our First Reading in the sense of highlighting the importance of hospitality…and how best to welcome Jesus into our homes and into our hearts. But the deeper meaning might well have to do with how we come to a strong, lasting, intimate union with Christ, that, much like Christian Marriage, transcends time and carries over into Eternity.

Mary certainly makes a convincing case for “love at first sight.” But Martha reminds us that it takes work…to keep the flame alive and burning…and the work never ends.

Prayer, study, contemplation, and reflection…in other words…the “Mary model” of sitting at the feet of The Lord, can be inspiring beyond description…the ultimate experience of LOVE! But, in order to ensure that the infatuation does not cool, the “Martha model” must be considered. In fact, isn’t that what we learn while enjoying the privileged seat near Jesus Christ? Isn’t the call to service the centerpiece of the Gospel?

There was definitely chemistry at work in that humble little home in Bethany. Jesus was the catalyst that combined the elements of contemplation and action, and the result was DISCIPLESHIP!

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 11:1-13
July 24, 2022

In our First Reading, we marvel at how brazenly persistent Abraham is in his efforts to mitigate God’s very justified reaction to the goings-on in Sodom and Gomorrah. And he is successful in his pleas. It appears that Abraham “changed God’s mind.”

Then, in our Gospel, we benefit from the disciple’s request that Jesus teach them to pray. The Lord completed His instructions on effective prayer practice with a parable demonstrating the need to approach prayer with an urgent and determined, even obstinate attitude; simply put, like Abraham…KEEP ASKING!

Although particularly memorable in that Jesus lays out in detail the recommended content for prayer, these are not the only two references in Scripture guiding us in “how to pray.” Consider St. Paul’s brief but powerful suggestion found at 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without ceasing. Again, we are called to be persistent in prayer. Still, not even monks or cloistered nuns can spend every waking moment in prayer. Or can they? Should they? Can you? Is it even possible?

When we focus on the third element of The Lord’s Prayer: Hallowed be Thy Name…we find that, regardless of who we are, or what our vocation might be, it is entirely possible to pray without ceasing.

Jesus reminds us that God’s Name is Holy. In order to fully comprehend what that means…that God’s Name is Holy…we do well to join Moses on the summit of Mt. Sinai. There, Moses asked the Almighty by what Name God should be known. The Divine reply was both simple and at the same time exceedingly complex…crystal clear but infinitely mysterious. God said: “I AM Who I AM” (Exodus 3:14).

The Almighty seems to be telling us that it is impossible to Name the Eternal Presence. And so, the Divine should remain Nameless.

This passage greatly influenced the prayer practice of the Jewish people. To this day, many believe that the Almighty’s Name is unknowable…and that efforts to Name our Creator are, in a sense, a violation of the Second Commandment. Respecting the unknowable and unspeakable statue of The Divine Name, it is not uncommon to find a written reference to The Eternal One:


Still, even though The Hallowed Name cannot be spoken, many believe that it can pass through our lips in the form of our breath. When we exhale…we are, in a sense, whispering The Name of the Eternal One; just so when we inhale. If we are mindful of this “prayer practice,” we can, indeed, “pray unceasingly” from the moment we emerge from our mother’s womb until we draw our final breath.

Consider this: That which sustains life…respiration…is also That Who gives us life! The necessary and involuntary act of breathing, when we are in touch with The One Who gives us breath and supports our life, can be an unceasing prayer.

If this seems exotic…foreign…extreme…know that this prayer practice was “Christianized” and used to Hallow God’s Name from the early centuries of our Church. “The Jesus Prayer” is the simple practice of relying on breath rather than the spoken word to Hallow The Divine Name in prayer.

The method is quite simple. On the inhale, let the words flow through your mind and heart:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.”

On the exhale:

“Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

This prayer practice is founded on the belief that The Holy Name establishes a solid connection between Creator and creature, and in that sense is an extremely powerful prayer, which makes it possible to pray without ceasing.

Whether you are praying in hopes of changing God’s mind…or for some special favor…or simply to Hallow God’s Name…the very breath God gives us is a beautiful way to connect.

Fr. Richard Rohr, OSF, puts it this way: Let your breathing in and out, for the rest of your life, be your prayer to—and from—such a living and utterly shared God. You will not need to prove it to anybody else, nor can you. Just keep breathing with full consciousness and without resistance, and you will know what you need to know.

18 Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 12:13-21
July 31, 2022

The richest man in the world will soon take possession of a so-called “super yacht.” The price tag is close to a 1/2 billion dollars. But there is an additional expense. He will have to personally bear the cost of dismantling, and then rebuilding, a bridge that is presently blocking access from the shipyards in Amsterdam to the sea. He is not alone.

It is widely reported that the ultra-wealthy are investing heavily in larger and larger private yachts. Their motivation seems a bit less admirable than Noah’s Ark building. While they are seeking refuge at sea, they are also purchasing large tracts of land in remote areas of the world. This interest in seclusion is reminiscent of the early months of COVID, when the “One Percenters” were heading off to their private islands.

It certainly appears that the increasing concerns over global health issues, the impact of rapidly changing climate patterns, and the cultural shifts that are leading to worldwide civil unrest are motivating billionaires’ desires to go to sea. What we seem to be witnessing is “survival of the richest rather than the fittest.”

One can’t help but wonder if many of the issues driving these extremely costly escape plans could be resolved if the money were to be committed to survival of all humanity. It is tempting to speak to the obvious social justice issues at play here. However, our Gospel seems to nudge our attention in another direction.

The parable of the wealthy man blessed with an unexpected windfall raises the issue of the “need to control.” (Emphasis on NEED)

Who hasn’t run into a “control freak”? We all have a friend who always chooses the restaurant or the movie…or hangs onto the remote for dear life. And, of course, the experience of a “micro manager” for a boss is never pleasant.

Some people who can’t take a back seat and delegate seem to have trust issues. They feel that no one can “do it better” than they can. VANITY!

Others might be motivated by fear, and so they do what is necessary…at any cost…even to the point of burning bridges that they might never be able to repair…in order to control what they perceive to be a threat to their security. ALSO VANITY!

Whatever the motivation might be, controlling personalities can’t seem to be fully at peace unless they are in full control, which means that they can never be fully at peace, because life is full of things which ARE BEYOND OUR CONTROL.

Which brings us to the important takeaway from this week’s Readings.

Jesus’s gift to us is PEACE!

From a spiritual standpoint, TRUST in God’s infinite power, goodness, mercy, and love are the ultimate “survival plan.” Relying exclusively on our own resources as we negotiate the challenges of this life tends to leave us in a constant state of restlessness…bereft of peace!

That thought is worthy of further exploration.

There is nothing wrong with planning or even taking steps to protect one’s own health and well-being. But, without accepting that, ultimately, God is in control, and without TRUST in The Almighty, it is nearly impossible to live in PEACE!

St. Ignatius of Loyola is credited with this little gem of wisdom that is a survival plan worth taking note of: “Pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you”.

Very few can afford a luxury yacht or a thousand-acre ranch in Montana, but God’s mercy and love and the Peace of Christ is there for the taking.

The most reliable survival plan is simply this: TRUST IN GOD AND LIVE IN PEACE!

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 12:32-48
August 7, 2022

The term “long hauler” has taken on a very negative connotation…once again…thank you, Covid! But don’t be too hasty to recoil from those words: LONG HAULER!

Because of his uncanny ability to predict what is going on in the global financial markets, billionaire and philanthropist extraordinaire, Warren Buffet, is often referred to as the “Oracle of Omaha” (his home state). I think of him as a modern-day Ben Franklin. Franklin’s advice on how to live a good life…even suggesting how to accumulate wealth…is quoted to this very day (a penny saved is a penny earned). Both Franklin and Warren Buffet offer pithy, sage one-liners full of wisdom.

Reacting to this roller coaster economy we are experiencing; Buffet has been quoted as saying: no one wants to get rich slow! But he goes on with calming words in the midst of so much economic uncertainty. He is telling investors to relax…be patient…be long haulers. He believes that the economy will rebound. I wonder if Warren Buffet’s financial genius is inspired by St. Paul?

From a spiritual perspective: no one wants to be SAVED SLOW!

We want laws and rules and regulations to follow so that we can say: I did everything required of me, so I am saved! We use special prayers and devotionals like spiritual vaccines, believing that once we’re done…we are completely protected…immune, so to speak. And all of that is good. BUT…

After we finish a novena…or Nine First Fridays…or the perfect Lent…we must go back into the world. Life can be hard…and full of temptations and challenges. It’s then we look to the first part of the little parable we heard in the Gospel and seek God’s mercy and forgiveness.

In our Second Reading, St. Paul uses Abraham as the perfect example of a “long hauler,” whose patience, sustained by faith, paid unimaginable dividends.

Uprooting his family, Abraham left the security of his home, taking up residence in a tent. Relying on faith as opposed to the security of GPS, he wandered in search of what he left behind…a new homeland. During these LONG years of uncertainty, he and Sarah proved that nothing in this world is truly certain…except for this: nothing is impossible for God!

And so, late in life, they were blessed with a son. His unshakable confidence in God’s goodness, mercy, and love has been memorialized through the generations as we recall his willingness to give back to God, this much-loved child.

The consummate “long hauler,” Abraham died without seeing the fruits of his spiritual investment…only to discover that his reward was twofold. First, he left a great inheritance to his children, who have become as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sands on the seashore. That, by the way, would include us. We are also the beneficiaries of this great legacy of faith in the One True and Living God.

Isn’t that one of the major reasons good and loving parents worry about their investments? They want to leave something of value for their children. Abraham and Sarah did! What more valuable treasure can we bequeath to our children than belief and dependence on God’s unfailing mercy and love?

Through his powerful example of faith in our Creator, Abraham has passed on to the generations a treasure of unparalleled value…at least to those who accept and reinvest it. Then, of course, his faith, patience, and endurance were rewarded when he was FINALLY resettled in the Promised Land of the Kingdom of God.

What a contrast to the scoundrel in Jesus’s parable. Clearly, he was looking for a “get rich quick” scheme. Borrowing, defaulting, forgiving…it all sounds like a Biblical Ponzi scheme…and it ended badly for him. He paid the price that all scoundrels pay.

The Church has given us three Readings this weekend that, at first glance, seem to be somewhat challenging to harmonize with one another. However, if you sit with them for a bit, it seems that the message is fairly obvious. The Passover from time and into eternity…in other words…the journey from death into new life, for most folks, is a marathon, not a sprint. We face any number of challenges along the way. But when we meet those challenges with FAITH…we will certainly survive and ultimately arrive in the Promised Land.

On those occasions when we might make a wrong turn, get misdirected or misguided…feel lost…we need only to look to the Master for forgiveness.

In short, no one wants to be SAVED SLOW! But, for most, that is the way it is. The good news is that Christ is with US for the LONG HAUL. So be patient…be calm…and be faithful…and someday, you will arrive in the Promised Land!

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 12:49-53
August 14, 2022


What in the world is a preacher supposed to do with these three Readings? Especially the Gospel!!

We come to the Eucharist, in part, to escape all the conflict and division that is absolutely raging in our world. We come to the Eucharist, in part, hoping for a little peace…and rightly so. It’s here that we remember in a special way Jesus’s own words: Peace I give you…my Peace I leave you!

And now we are told…by the Lord Himself, no less…Who, by the way, really does seem to be contradicting Himself: No Peace for you! No Peace for you! I’m here to divide you!

I gotta tell ya…I spent a lot of time reflecting on each of these three passages, trying to make some sense out of it all. After every prayer session, I felt exhausted…frustrated…and more than a little confused.

Finally…it dawned on me…why wouldn’t I be worn out after engaging these three Readings? They are nothing short of a spiritual workout! Just think about it. Each demands a whole lot of energy…but together…this is like watching a Bruce Willis movie. Our Liturgy of the Word this weekend is an action-packed thriller, carrying us from one great challenge to another, without allowing us enough time to catch our breath.

First, we’re thrown into a dark, damp well…sinking deeper and deeper into the mud…and then, without warning, we’re dragged back into the glaring light of day. No sooner do we surface, and St. Paul tells us to: Lace up your running shoes…you’ve got a marathon to run.

But, at the finish line, there are no cooling blankets…or water bottles waiting to refresh us. Instead, there is this challenging Gospel that conjures up images of a war zone! DIVISION…FIRE! Anything but peace! There’s no relief!

At least I didn’t find any relief from the action and drama…and confusion…until the idea struck me that, in linking these three Readings together, the Church…whether or not intending to…has painted a picture of the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ…from womb to grave!

Wouldn’t you think that when Jeremiah was unexpectedly dragged out of that well, his first words might have been: I need to clean myself up!

When, without warning, we are born into time, pulled into the glaring light of this world, we are covered in original sin…and we need to be cleaned up. So, we are brought to the Living Waters of Baptism. A little soap and water might have done the trick for Jeremiah…BUT DISCIPLESHIP DEMANDS MUCH, MUCH MORE!

To be a follower of Christ…a radical cleansing is required…a cleansing that is so powerful, so intense, so complete…that it is best described as REBIRTH!

And the agent for this REBIRTH…this RE-CREATION, actually, is FIRE and THE HOLY SPIRIT!

The Lord uses the unsettling, even jarring image of “divisions within the family structure.”
But the spiritual rebirth Christians experienced by FIRE and THE HOLY SPIRIT is even more intimate…and divisive!

Baptism is the catalyst that divides and separates what is good and holy and life giving within us; in other words, that which makes us in the IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF OUR CREATOR…from our shadow selves…our dark sides…our evil inclinations.

With that, we lace up our running shoes and begin the marathon that St. Paul speaks about in our Second Reading, the marathon of life, that really does require a whole lot of energy.

Now, here is the Good News:

All along the way, we have the other Sacraments to refresh us…nourish us…heal us…unite us…and strengthen our commitment to Christ and to one other. It’s through the Sacramental life of our Church that we are able to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus…the leader and perfecter of faith. And it is the very same Jesus Christ Who is there to greet us when we finally cross the finish line to become part of the cloud of witnesses to the eternal Glory of God.

What in the world is a preacher supposed to do with these three Readings? What are we to make of these three passages?

I suggest that we sit with them…pray over them…reflect on them…no matter how exhausting or confusing the well might be, until each of us hears in our minds and hearts the message they hold for that part of ourselves that was divided from our dark side and is nourished and invigorated by the Life-Giving Word of The Lord!

What should we do with these Readings? We should claim them as our story, a story that begins in darkness…but ends in Perpetual Light…The Light of Christ.


Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 13:22-30
August 21, 2022

Sore knees and locked doors!

These Readings seem like they are directed at me personally. I definitely have sore knees. And, as my neighbors and friends…and even the local locksmith will testify…over the years, I have REPEATEDLY lost my keys, or left them sitting on the kitchen counter as I thoughtlessly closed and locked the front door.

I could go on for pages describing the numerous times I have locked myself out of my own house…or church…or parish office. The experiences make for funny stories that are good for a laugh or two…now…years later. But there is nothing funny about being locked out when it’s happening. It is a frustrating waste of time, and nothing short of maddening. I recall the time I ran to the mailbox in January without a coat…” lockouts” can even be dangerous. Still…nothing could possibly compare with the experience of being “locked out” of the Kingdom of God. That is an infinitely tragic thought.

The Second Reading really hits home as well.

St. Paul repeatedly uses the word “discipline” to make the point that if there is no pain, there is no gain! If I only had a nickel for every time a physical therapist or sports trainer or doctor has used those or similar words to encourage me to do the homework…stretch before bed…stretch when you wake up…walk…get out of the recliner…keep moving…exercise!

And I do.


When I think about it.

If I have the time.

It sure is easy to find a reason (excuse) not to be “disciplined.”

I am not trying to be glib about a very serious message made clear by the several examples in the Gospel and reinforced by St. Paul. Salvation is nothing to be taken lightly. It requires work.

Our Readings can be unnerving, if not downright frightening. I suspect they are meant to be…and not just for me. Whether or not a person suffers from “sore knees or locked doors,” it is wise for everyone to listen attentively to the cautionary tone of these passages! The message is a stark reminder of what is at stake…ETERNAL JOY!

It helps to take the sting out of an otherwise alarming “warning” about salvation, if we jump back to the First Reading. Isaiah explains God’s intentions to invite everyone in. Can this mean that somehow, some way, there is an “open door policy?”

A truly comforting note to the passage is the assurance that God knows our works and our thoughts! (Comforting, that is, if our intentions are good and sincere, and we at least make an effort to live a Gospel life.)

Doesn’t this mean that God knows when we try? Try to stay disciplined? Try to do the work of discipleship? Try to stretch our spiritual selves so that we are stronger, fitter, and more resilient as we face the challenges of life?

And if Isaiah has properly reported God’s desire for universal salvation, shouldn’t we expect that God is always nearby to coax us out of our recliners? Isn’t God, somehow, some way, always there, helping us to “strengthen our drooping hands and our weak knees” …healing us with grace…and guiding us on a path that, in spite of our limitations and weaknesses, we are able to travel?

And if, per chance, we arrive to find that we are “locked out,” is that the end of our story? On the numerous occasions when I have found myself on the wrong side of a locked door…I certainly don’t just give up and walk away. I keep trying things until I gain access.

Few people are so well disciplined that they can confidently walk up to the gates of the Kingdom and enter without knocking. But if, per chance, upon arrival, the door is barred, and pounding and shouting isn’t working…possibly the key is to simply whisper in all sincerity: I AM SORRY! I REALLY DID TRY!

God knows our works and our thoughts! If we have perfect contrition…the doors might just open. But the better plan is to live the life of a disciplined disciple…at least as best we can.

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 14:1, 7-14
August 28, 2022

This Sunday, we find Jesus doing what He so often did…using His surroundings to deliver an important teaching.

In fact, the dinner party He was attending inspired a two-pronged lesson.

He first addresses the recommended etiquette for guests and concludes with recommendations for hosts. Both parts of the Gospel are in perfect harmony with the First Reading, which speaks to the value of humility.

Clearly, both passages offer advice on how we should live with and among one another. If we take away nothing else from these Readings, we still have valuable guidance and a solid life lesson.

But it might be wise to follow Jesus’s example and look to our surroundings in search of an even deeper meaning to these passages.

Take, for example, the Sacred Banquet of Eucharist.

God, as our Host, extends an eager, enthusiastic, and broad-reaching invitation.

God is anxious to fill every seat at The Table; this, in spite of the fact there is no way anyone can reciprocate.

We might say: our presence is, itself, our gift of gratitude.

When preparing a guest list, hosts typically consider those they are obliged to invite…relatives, close friends, coworkers, and the like.

Most party planners have to admit that they look to include “distinguished guests” who are likely to draw others to the event.

At the same time, they want to make certain that folks are compatible, minimizing the potential for conflict.

Why plan an event that is not going to be enjoyable for everyone attending, including the host, who intentionally adds a “Debbie Downer” at a well-planned event?

God approaches the role of Host in an infinitely different manner. The guest list for Eucharist is limitless, the only qualifications being Baptism…and a “healthy” appetite.

But our Host is especially anxious that those with the greatest hunger…the most needy…be in attendance.

As Pope Francis has reminded us: “We learn that the Eucharist is not only a reward for the good but also the strength for the weak and for sinners. It is forgiveness and sustenance which helps us on our journey.”

God is delighted when the impoverished…those who are “poor in Spirit” …accept the gracious invitation. Nourishment is abundant through Word and Sacrament.

Those who, because of some disability which makes it difficult to follow Christ, are welcomed by our Host with joy, The Eucharist offers healing and strength, enabling them to continue their journey.

Those who stagger through life in the darkness of sin are guided towards the Light of Christ…and return to the world with their vision restored.

Jesus certainly took full advantage of the surroundings in which He found Himself. He used a dinner party to reveal God as the most generous and welcoming of Hosts.

In addition, He reminded those who expect to be invited and rarely decline the invitation to be more than a guest…especially guests who critique fellow diners.

Disciples are honored in a special way. Disciples are invited to be co hosts. Disciples are called to serve.

In the coming week, look closely at the surroundings and circumstances in which you happen to find yourself.

Listen for that special invitation from God…just for you…the invitation and the opportunity to service. What greater honor than to serve next to The Lord!

The only skill required is HUMILITY!

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary
Lk 14:25-33
September 4, 2022

You may never be as wise as an owl… But you will always be a hoot to me!

Pretty corny, right?

But considering how severe the Gospel is…it seemed like a good idea to begin with a laugh…or at least a groan. The Church did something similar.

The passage from Luke is “softened” somewhat by the First Reading from the Book of Wisdom. There, we are reminded that God’s ways are not our ways…and the mind and will of our Creator are way, way, way too much for us to wrap our fragile minds around. There is some comfort in that, especially when we find a Scripture passage particularly challenging.

Still, we were created in the image and likeness of God. Accordingly, we are not totally without wisdom. And maybe wisdom grows, develops, and matures with age. The Roman philosopher Cicero (106-43 B.C.) is quoted as saying: “For there is assuredly nothing dearer to a man than wisdom, and though age takes away all else, it undoubtedly brings us that.”

I think that this little slice of “secular wisdom” is especially true in terms of our spiritual lives. In other words, “the wisdom of age” has a way of lifting the fog that prevents us from enjoying a clearer vision of what awaits us when we are finally free of…that is to say…no longer a slave to…time…or the demands of our flesh and bones.

Think of it this way. Even as cataracts begin to cloud our vision of things around us, our spirits begin to see ever more clearly what God intends for those who love…and serve…and yearn to know…yearn for wisdom. The more we are liberated from our earthly bodies, the more our spiritual selves are freed to explore what “while in the flesh” seems so far above and beyond us.

All this to suggest that as we grow older, the notion of hating father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters…becomes a bit less daunting. Simply put, with the passage of time, our worldly relationships, desires, passions, goals, and objectives begin to slowly lose their hold on us. Our world gets smaller and smaller with age. At the same time, however, our relationship with God and our desire for things “other worldly” begins to dominate all else.

Certainly, there are younger people who enjoy this kind of profound wisdom before they need the support of a walker. They are called saints…disciples…seekers…servers! It is a wonderful gift to walk through this life with the freedom that comes from mature wisdom. On the other hand, whatever our age might be…although few are as wise as an owl…God takes enormous delight in each and every one of us…and waits patiently for us to “wise up!”

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary
Lk 15:1-32
September 11, 2022

Almost universally known, Jesus’s parable of the Prodigal Son offers a lesson that transcends sibling rivalry and resentment. This drama-packed story offers insights into the complex interactions of the entire human family. For a deeper and even more fruitful interpretation of the parable, it might be helpful to remember that the word describing the wayward son…PRODIGAL… is suited not only to him, but to his father and his brother as well.

“Prodigal” is defined as wasteful or reckless extravagance. In fact, Fr. Richard Rohr would rename the parable. He suggests that the story of the Prodigal Son is more that of the Prodigal Father, who, we come to learn, is extravagant when it comes to his sons. The sons are prodigal in failure; the father is prodigal in generosity.

The failure of the younger son is obvious, but he dealt with it and returned repentant. As a result, his dignity as a much-loved child was restored. The failure of the resentful son is more difficult for most people to grasp. Why shouldn’t he be resentful?

But the truth is, by withholding forgiveness, and harboring resentment and anger, he is allowing the situation to continue to do him harm…spiritual, emotional, possibly physical…and maybe even financial harm…the kind of harm that neither he nor the family might ever recover from. Jesus leaves us to ponder whether the “faithful son” was able to work through the feelings that darkened his spirit and threatened the peace of his family.

As far as the “prodigal father,” anyone who considers it a “failure” to be extravagant in forgiveness, patience, tolerance, mercy, and love…as we hear in our Second Reading…is acting out of ignorance and unbelief.

By highlighting the prodigal nature of the father, the extravagant love of God surfaces as the primary lesson of the story. When we merely gloss over the father’s contribution to the drama, we limit the teaching power of the little story. By keeping the spotlight on the Prodigal Father, we have the opportunity to become better acquainted with our God!

There is a very dark cloud hanging over our world these days. This stormfront has brought with it anger, resentment, conflict, division, and violence. As a human family, we are in crisis mode, making it especially urgent for us to embrace the fullness of this story and use what we learn to push back against the darkness.

Consider, for example, the darkness that has overwhelmed a small town in Idaho. The town recently made the news as a result of the activities by members of the conservative Christian movement who have relocated there. According to one man, who is part of this exodus, these folks are seeking to escape the decadence that is rampant in our country. They have found refuge in this remote area of the northwest. They are ambitious to separate from the United States, living together according to “Christian moral principles.” They are claiming this town as their own “promised land.”

Recently, and inspired by fundamentalist interpretations of Sacred Scripture, these folks have targeted the local library. Attending library board meetings, literally armed not just with the Bible, but with guns as well, they are demanding the removal of a list of over 400 books from the library shelves. In fact, according to the director of the library, who has resigned out of fear, not a single book on the list has been in circulation from that facility.

She goes on to explain that because of the actions and threats of these Christians, and the clear and present danger of violence they bring, this once integral and much valued community resource is likely to close its doors altogether.

If I were the pastor in a Roman Catholic parish in this town under siege, I would stress how Jesus reacted to violence: Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Matt 26:52)

At the same time, I would very much encourage a prayerful, thoughtful, open-minded and “open-hearted” reading of today’s Gospel.

Like every other place in our sin-tainted world, despite the best efforts to force reform and conversion, this little town will never be perfect. Our world gave up perfection with the first sin. Moreover, it will certainly not be made perfect by bringing guns and Bibles to public meetings. “Stiff-necked people,” who are convinced of their own righteousness, might very well be missing the plank in their own eyes.

Continuing to dig deeper into the story of the “three prodigals,” Fr. Rohr suggests: If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own.

So how does that work? Definitely not by packing a gun next to The Bible.

How do we deal with the imperfections we PERCEIVE in others in hopes of living together according to “Christian moral principles?

Maybe by accepting that God, when it comes to the human family, is truly Prodigal. Wouldn’t that mean that we should resist the urge to act out of ignorance and unbelief, simply leaving God to be God; that is, extravagant in Divine forgiveness, patience, tolerance, mercy, and love?

Isn’t the wiser course of action to loosen our “stiff necks” so that we can better see, focus on, and deal with our own imperfections? Isn’t it the better route to perfection simply CONTRITION AND REPENTANCE?

One thing is certain, if we, as a human family, do not make every effort to work through the feelings that have darkened our spirits and threatened the peace of the human family…the anger, resentment, conflict, division, and violence will continue until it boils over. No good will come from bringing guns and threats to public meetings…even if you are packing the Bible in your other pocket.

The solution, my reading of this Gospel leads me to believe, is set like a diamond in the center of the parable.

We are called to be PRODIGAL…like the father…like our God…PRODIGAL IN PATIENCE, MERCY, FORGIVENESS, AND LOVE!

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 16:1-13
September 18, 2022

This would be a good weekend to “call in sick.”

This Gospel is not only complex, but also extremely confusing. It certainly appears that Jesus is suggesting that the “scoundrel,” who has been doubly dishonest, deserves some sort of admiration.

Say what?

So far as I’m concerned, there is nothing to admire about this guy. And, in my book, the most contemptible crime of this thief is how he drew others into his web of dishonesty. Rather than simply writing off their debts in his own handwriting, accepting total responsibly should this further act of treachery come to light…he told them: Here is the promissory note…hurry up and YOU change it! In other words: YOU DO THE DIRTY WORK! He made them accomplices to his criminal acts. He set them up to be scapegoats! Scoundrels operate that way!

Clearly, this guy plays fast and loose with the truth. Once his further acts of embezzlement come to light…as crimes usually do…wouldn’t you expect him to deny knowing anything about it? Wouldn’t his ‘long game’ be to shield his own guilt by denying knowledge of how the lesser debts were forgiven?

This really would be a good weekend for a preacher to call in sick, because I, for one, have far more questions than answers, and more guesses than certainties.

QUESTION: For starters, why would the master “commend him?”

MY GUESS: Maybe because it is “prudent” to cultivate relationships that you can take refuge in when you are in trouble.

QUESTION: I wonder how many of the others actually resisted the opportunity to profit…illegally…by entering into the conspiracy?

MY GUESS: None. Some might have been so poor…so desperate…that the little relief from the big lie was irresistible. Others might have simply trusted him. After all, he was in charge. He must know what he is doing, right? Either way, they were all likely to have been drawn into the conspiracy.

QUESTION: How will it all end?

MY GUESS: The master might well “admire” the “prudence” of the bad guy in the way he has planned an escape route, but isn’t the most probable outcome a day of reckoning? That is the way of the world anyway. Who in their right mind would discover this scheme of massive betrayal and simply let it go? In the end, my guess is that the master will demand justice!

QUESTION: So, what is the “take-away” here? What is Jesus trying to teach us with this complex and confusing parable?

MY GUESS: Maybe the key is in our Second Reading, where St. Paul tells us WITH CERTAINTY…no guessing here…GOD WILLS EVERYONE TO BE SAVED, AND TO COME TO KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.

By now, you might well be wishing that I had called in sick this weekend. Let me just say this.

I don’t think salvation is a matter of “guess work.” And, while there are times when truth is hidden, or concealed…like the dishonest servant tried to hide and conceal his treachery…if we work to uncover it…eventually we will come to the knowledge of truth…because that is God’s will.

In the spiritual realm, wondering or reflecting is much more effective than guessing. Wondering invites the Holy Spirit into the work of truth-seeking. So then, after a whole lot of guessing about what Jesus is telling us in this story…I wised up and started “reflecting,” and came up with some “wonder questions.”

I WONDER if the Lord wants us to stop thinking about “the ways of the world” and consider God’s will and God’s ways?

I WONDER if the purpose of this story is to highlight the importance of our relationships…especially our relationship with Jesus Christ?
I WONDER if the image of “writing off debts due and owing” isn’t a way of highlighting our debts…for our sins?

I WONDER if Jesus is telling us that He recognizes our poverty…our desperation…our ignorance…and wants to offer us forgiveness, healing, protection…sort of a “fresh start”?

I WONDER if this story isn’t The Lord’s way of revealing His “end game” to shield us from our just punishments?

I WONDER if the Lord is handing us the pen and telling us to discount our sin debt in our own handwriting? Could this be The Lord’s way of encouraging us to seek forgiveness before our day of reckoning?


So…what do you think?

Don’t take the day off…and don’t call in sick. Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire you so that you might come to the knowledge of the truth that this complex and confusing parable holds…and in that way…be saved!

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary
Lk 16:19-31
September 25, 2022

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, made a visit to Pakistan in the wake of the horrific flooding that nation has recently experienced.

Flooding caused by monsoon rains and aggravated by melting glaciers in the mountains in the northern part of the country.

Flooding that an impressive number of experts insist has the “fingerprints” of the human-made climate crisis…a crisis that is either denied or ignored by so many; a crisis that Pakistan, itself, has little to no responsibility for causing…the “fingerprints” of industrialized, wealthy nations all over the world.

Flooding that has…to date…taken the lives of an estimated 1,500 people…about 1/3 of which were children.

Flooding that has left small, rural villages…islands…completely surrounded by water. Much of this nation’s landmass is literally underwater.

Flooding that is said to have had a devastating impact on the lives of 33 million people…washing away crops, killing livestock, and leaving hundreds of thousands of families living outdoors and totally exposed to the elements, barely clinging to life…in conditions that invite disease and more death.

Flooding that, relief workers and humanitarians point out, has been almost overlooked by the rest of the world…foreign aid being described as “a pittance,” and “laughable.”

The Secretary General of the United Nations certainly found nothing humorous about the suffering or the minimal humanitarian response from the wealthy nations of the world. What he saw prompted him to say in a recent TV interview: If the wealthy do not come for the poor…the poor will come for the wealthy!

On its face, this comment might appear to be a threat, but I would suggest that it is merely a statement of fact. When people’s home countries are no longer habitable, they have no other choice but to migrate. For most, leaving their home is definitely not the preference. But when staying means extreme hardship and even death…there simply is no choice. So, they migrate! They are indeed coming for us.

By this time, you might be wondering what all of this has to do with the Gospel. Well, I would suggest that this is a 21st Century version of Jesus’s parable about the wealthy man, who went about his privileged life, without even noticing the impoverished and suffering Lazarus sitting outside his door.

Obviously, there is precious little that anyone who is not a billionaire or the government of a wealthy nation can do to make a significant difference in Pakistan (or much closer to home, the even more recently afflicted Puerto Rico). But ALL OF US…every other person in the world should at least know what is happening to our fellow human beings. The very least we can do is be aware of what they are going through…and respond with compassion. To simply reach for the remote, when video footage of human suffering threatens an otherwise pleasant evening, is not discipleship.

This week’s Gospel cautions us that there are dire consequences to isolating ourselves…like the rich man, simply enjoying life without so much as even noticing the extreme poverty and suffering outside the walls we build to protect what we have.

What sort of consequences? From a worldly standpoint, an immigration crisis. If the wealthy do not come for the poor…the poor will come for the wealthy! If people cannot feed themselves at home…they have no choice but to leave home.

What sort of consequences? From a spiritual standpoint, Jesus spelled out the consequences of total disregard for human suffering with startling clarity. Nothing further need be said.

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 17:5-10
October 2, 2022

Considered to be one of the “minor” Prophets of the Old Testament, Habakkuk definitely raises a “major” issue; namely, Where is God when we need help the most?

Very little is known about Habakkuk, other than the condition of the world at the time of his conversation with The Almighty, set out in our First Reading. Judah was under siege, and the oppressors were nonbelievers…worshipers of idols…pagans. They were intent upon inflicting great suffering on God’s people. This prompts Habakkuk to ask the question that must have been on the minds and hearts of all the Chosen People:


That very profound question has survived the centuries.

It must be on the minds and the hearts of the People of Ukraine, afflicted by a brutal invader even as Judah was.

It must be on the minds and the hearts of the People of Puerto Rico, not yet fully recovered from Hurricane Maria, only to be afflicted once again by Hurricane Fiona.

It must be on the minds and the hearts of patients listening to a dire diagnosis from their oncologist.

I can personally attest to the fact that it is very often on the minds and the hearts of elderly parishioners, often dealing with chronic pain, totally dependent on the charity of others, enjoying no quality of life. I have been asked that question, when making pastoral calls in ICU wards, hospices, and sick rooms where death seems to have been delayed. I am expected to answer on behalf of God.

I would be very surprised to hear that anyone facing one of life’s inescapable and often serious challenges hasn’t given voice to that very question. Even non-believers, in mid-crisis, longing for resolution, foolishly look to “the universe” rather than to the Creator of the universe and ask:


This is a question which was rooted deeply in the human experience as a consequence of The Original Sin. It is not a question asked within The Kingdom of God, where there is no time but only Eternity…no endings but simply endless peace and joy.

First, consider that Habakkuk is not merely questioning God. This passage is a prayer. And when the prayer is completed, he simply WAITS! The Church has provided a Second Reading and a passage from Luke’s Gospel that appear to suggest that “the wait” might be made more bearable if the question were to be re-framed.

Rather than: HOW LONG, O LORD? Wouldn’t it be wiser to ask The Lord: GOD…WHAT ARE YOU TELLING ME?

When we find ourselves in crisis mode, impatient for the storm to pass, St. Paul recommends that we stir into flame the gift of God…FAITH! Jesus goes on to reassure us that even a speck of faith has the potential to enable us to endure, and to come out the other side wiser for the experience.

HOW LONG? Doesn’t that question tend to prolong and maybe even intensify the pain?

WHAT AM I TO LEARN? It might take a speck of faith to ask this question during tough times, but it is definitely the way to change loss into gain.

When will the war in Ukraine end? When will the flood waters in Puerto Rico recede? When will the cancer patient know if the chemo has shrunk the tumor? When will Perpetual Light finally shine on the elderly hospice patient?

No one knows!

But we can be certain of this much:
God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power…and love…and self-control. So then reframe the question and then:

Be still and know that I am God! (Ps. 46)

…and you will be all the wiser when God finally responds.

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 17:11-19
October 9, 2022

Influenced by my father’s example from many years past, when I am stopped in traffic, I have always (for almost 57 years now) tried to wave any vehicle waiting on my right-hand side out onto the roadway ahead of me. This only takes a few seconds (except on those occasions when giving up the “right of way” means the guy sails through the caution light while I end up sitting through the red). So, there can be consequences to this simple act of kindness. But, even then, it is worth it…or can be!

Observing my dad’s patience and courtesy to the guy on his right, I was rarely disappointed by the exchange. Even in the days of crank-down windows, it almost never failed. An arm would jut out with a “wave of appreciation” as the car pulled ahead of us into the line of traffic. Easier today with power windows, but back then, the gesture of gratitude took more time and effort than Dad’s sign to “go ahead of me!”
I would look for it, and it almost always came in response to my dad’s thoughtfulness.

I loved the contact…the human interaction…the pleasant exchange between perfect strangers. Although I was just a kid, I recognized something important about those few seconds.

Maybe what I saw in it was opportunity. Here was an opportunity for my dad to be gracious…and for the beneficiary to be grateful. So, it has become a lifelong driving habit for me. I almost always take these opportunities to be gracious.

The thing is, in recent years, fewer and fewer people are taking the opportunity to be grateful. More often than not, the person simply wheels out of the parking lot ahead of me, one hand on the steering wheel, the other on a cell phone, speeding away without so much as a look back. It’s as if the sense of entitlement has overpowered the sense of gratitude.

It makes me wonder if we are at risk of losing something that is really part of, and basic to, our human nature. I wonder if we are forgetting how to be grateful?

But then we are presented with today’s Gospel. From the manner in which nine of the ten lepers responded to the healing miracle, it would appear that ingratitude is “nothing new.”

What we have here is something so far beyond mere courtesy that it is staggering. When the first sign of the dreaded disease appeared on their skin, lepers were totally excluded from the community.

The disease not only meant inescapable pain, suffering, and imminent death, but it also brought with it total exclusion from the community. Lepers were completely isolated.

What we see in this contact…this interaction between God and those in need of a special favor from God…is not only a miraculous physical healing, but also a complete restoration of the afflicted to family, friends, and community. In a way, Jesus signaled these poor people, stranded on the “sidelines of life,” inviting them to “GO AHEAD OF ME!”

So, they wheeled back into the flow of the living. Amazingly, only one took advantage of the opportunity to express gratitude.

British philosopher and theologian G.K. Chesterton once wrote: When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.

Elsewhere, he wrote: I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

Jesus’s reaction to the solitary “thank you” makes a definite connection between faith and gratitude. I wonder if we might build off Chesterton’s wisdom and consider that…when it comes to faith, a critical thing is whether you take things for granted…like the 9… or with gratitude…like the Samaritan.

Wouldn’t that suggest that “gratitude to God for the many blessings we enjoy each day” is an expression of faith…and enables one to be doubly blessed?

It all comes down to this.

If we are influenced by the example of the sole person who Jesus healed…our faith will save us.

P.S. “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving.” The perfect way to roll down the window and signal our gratitude to The Lord as we pull out ahead of Him into traffic…is join the community for Eucharist.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 18:1-8
October 16, 2022

Recently, a candidate for a local judgeship rang my doorbell. We had a very brief and pleasant conversation. The purpose of the visit was the candidate’s desire that I have a “face to connect to the name on the ballot.”

As I watched the candidate sprint down the street to the next house, it occurred to me that I had learned very little about the qualifications of this person who is hoping to sit in judgment of others. Though it was too late to ask, I thought of a number of questions which I could have…actually SHOULD HAVE asked. Having read, reflected on, and prayed over today’s Gospel passage, the question at the top of my list has become: Would fear ever influence or motivate a decision or ruling you would be called upon to render?

How disappointing to think that a judge might be motivated by anything other than justice and righteousness! Fear and anxiety being especially offensive in the dispatch of judicial duties.

Fear and anxiety…in my humble opinion…are not indicators of God’s grace at work. Fear and anxiety suggest an absence of the PEACE OF CHRIST! Fear and anxiety demonstrate an urgent need for the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Still, the stark realization that, one day, each of us will stand before our Creator, Who will weigh the merits of our cause with perfect justice…leaves us vulnerable to a major attack of fear and anxiety…or SHOULD!

And so, we turn to the other character in this Sunday’s parable…the persistent widow.

We have reason to believe that she was a virtuous person. We know that she was twice victimized…first by someone against whom she filed litigation, and then by the corrupt judge, who, for whatever reason, failed to give her the relief she was entitled to.

Clearly, she felt neither fear nor anxiety in challenging the party she made claim against, or in demanding a favorable ruling from the corrupt judge. In fact, she used her PERSISTENCE to win her rightful judgment.

The lesson revolves around her absolute refusal to go away quietly…or settle for less than her entitlement. Jesus makes it clear that this is the proper approach to prayer…PERSISTENCE! But I wonder if the parable doesn’t hint, as well, at an effective approach to salvation?

Consider how fear and anxiety motivated the judge to behave in the manner he should have in the first place. His “conversion” resulted from what he perceived to be a threat brought about by the widow’s absolute refusal to give up on her claim. Isn’t that a bit like the persistence of God Who refuses to give up on even the most hardened sinner? Doesn’t God continue to hound us…even using the threat of the loss of eternal life to motivate conversions? God does not give up on His claim to us!

As for those who are not as contemptible as the judge…those who try to live a good life, but even still, appreciate the consequences of the inevitable poor choice or bad decision…and so are afflicted with fear and anxiety…what is the take-away from this parable for the “average disciple” when overwhelmed at the prospect of standing before the Just Judge at the end of our earthly lives?

Isn’t Jesus encouraging us to pray with the persistence of the widow for the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we might live a life of grace…in the Peace of Christ?

Recently, a candidate for a local judgeship rang my doorbell. We had a very brief and pleasant conversation. The purpose of the visit was the candidate’s desire that I have a “face to connect to the name on the ballot.”

As I watched the candidate sprint down the street to the next house, it occurred to me that I had learned very little about the qualifications of this person who is hoping to sit in judgment of others. Though it was too late to ask, I thought of a number of questions which I could have…actually SHOULD HAVE asked. Having read, reflected on, and prayed over today’s Gospel passage, the question at the top of my list has become: Would fear ever influence or motivate a decision or ruling you would be called upon to render?

How disappointing to think that a judge might be motivated by anything other than justice and righteousness! Fear and anxiety being especially offensive in the dispatch of judicial duties.

Fear and anxiety…in my humble opinion…are not indicators of God’s grace at work. Fear and anxiety suggest an absence of the PEACE OF CHRIST! Fear and anxiety demonstrate an urgent need for the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Still, the stark realization that, one day, each of us will stand before our Creator, Who will weigh the merits of our cause with perfect justice…leaves us vulnerable to a major attack of fear and anxiety…or SHOULD!

And so, we turn to the other character in this Sunday’s parable…the persistent widow.

We have reason to believe that she was a virtuous person. We know that she was twice victimized…first by someone against whom she filed litigation, and then by the corrupt judge, who, for whatever reason, failed to give her the relief she was entitled to.

Clearly, she felt neither fear nor anxiety in challenging the party she made claim against, or in demanding a favorable ruling from the corrupt judge. In fact, she used her PERSISTENCE to win her rightful judgment.

The lesson revolves around her absolute refusal to go away quietly…or settle for less than her entitlement. Jesus makes it clear that this is the proper approach to prayer…PERSISTENCE! But I wonder if the parable doesn’t hint, as well, at an effective approach to salvation?

Consider how fear and anxiety motivated the judge to behave in the manner he should have in the first place. His “conversion” resulted from what he perceived to be a threat brought about by the widow’s absolute refusal to give up on her claim. Isn’t that a bit like the persistence of God Who refuses to give up on even the most hardened sinner? Doesn’t God continue to hound us…even using the threat of the loss of eternal life to motivate conversions? God does not give up on His claim to us!

As for those who are not as contemptible as the judge…those who try to live a good life, but even still, appreciate the consequences of the inevitable poor choice or bad decision…and so are afflicted with fear and anxiety…what is the take-away from this parable for the “average disciple” when overwhelmed at the prospect of standing before the Just Judge at the end of our earthly lives?

Isn’t Jesus encouraging us to pray with the persistence of the widow for the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we might live a life of grace…in the Peace of Christ?

It would seem that St. Francis de Sales thought so. He left us with a beautiful prayer to turn to in times of anxiety or fear. Try it…you’ll like it!  

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day. He will either shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 18:9-14
October 23, 2022

On October 11, Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass at St. Peter’s, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.

True to form, during this special celebration, the Holy Father did not shy away from reality. HE TOLD IT LIKE IT IS!

In his homily, Pope Francis acknowledged that the “Council Reforms,” as they are often referred to, are not universally embraced by the universal Church today. Tragically, certain of the Council’s teachings have sparked division, rather than promoting unity, among The People of God.

Compounding this tragedy, it would appear that, in some countries, secular political instincts, rather than The Gospel, are influencing people’s perception of Vatican II. In other words, conservatives are squaring off against liberals.

The Pope remarked: “Both the ‘progressiveness’ that lines up behind the world and the ‘traditionalism’ and ‘moving backwards’ that longs for a bygone world are not evidence of love, but of infidelity.”

Francis does not cast blame at either side, but simply bemoans the fact that there are “sides” in the Church, which is the Body of Christ…One, Holy, and Apostolic. He continues: “quarrels, gossip, and disputes” over Council reforms make us less than what we are called to be.

He rightly argues that internal strife makes it far more challenging for the faithful to “live their faith with joy, without grumbling and criticizing.”

As I read the reports of and pondered the quotes lifted from Francis’s reflection, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had prayed over and been influenced by today’s Gospel as he prepared to preach. Jesus addressed the parable to: those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.


Sounds like a description of many in our Church today.

For that matter, doesn’t it sound like what Reader’s Digest used to call: “LIFE IN THESE UNITED STATES”? Although that column was humorous, internal conflict, wherever you might find it…in the Church, our nation, or in our families…is no laughing matter.

The Holy Father’s feeling about the current atmosphere in our Church is captured by this thought:

“We are always tempted to start from ourselves rather than from God, to put our own agendas before the Gospel, to let ourselves be caught up in the winds of worldliness in order to chase after the fashions of the moment or to turn our back on the time that providence has granted us.”

Through today’s Gospel, The Lord offers two brief but extremely informative character studies. The first is of a person who is all about “entitlement.” He gladly takes a special place of honor in the Temple, which he feels he’s “earned.”

This is a person of influence, whose thoughts and opinions are observed and modeled. He drips confidence and is totally self-satisfied. Basically, he is a study in arrogance, and his arrogance knows no bounds. He has the audacity to begin his prayer by listing all of HIS so-called accomplishments.

He gave in to the temptation to start from himself rather than from God!

He distinguishes and separates himself from the rest of humanity, placing himself above others in terms of “holiness.”

Of course, the other person in the story is quite the opposite. He is taking a risk by even entering the Temple to pray. His very presence in this holy place would have raised eyebrows.

What is HE doing here? Who does He think he is?

(In Jesus’s time, tax collectors were considered on par with thugs, mobsters, and extortionists.)

Keeping a respectful distance, he humbly acknowledged his sins and his unworthiness. He began HIS prayer WITH GOD! He begged for mercy! And so, it was the tax collector who Jesus held out as an example of righteousness…the kind of character that should influence others. Jesus sums up the parable by explaining that humility and contrition will justify even someone as despicable as a tax collector; whereas pride can be the downfall of someone who literally broadcasts righteousness.

Most people in the pews might not be aware of the fact that there is controversy and division among Church leaders concerning the implementation of the so-called reforms of Vatican II.

But make no mistake about it, there is a trickle-down effect.

I would bet, however, that the vast majority of the people in our country are aware of the dangerous division that threatens our peace today…division that has already trickled down and is making for some very unsettling and worrisome times.

Political instincts rather than Gospel values are prompting us to give into arrogance and pride, which energizes “quarrels, gossip, and disputes.”

This is NOT of the Spirit.

Division and conflict, “grumbling and criticizing” within the Body of Christ, as within Life in these United States…leads to confusion and uncertainty and makes it hard to “live with joy.”

Which is exactly what the Holy Spirit brings to us…JOY!

Is there a fix to this climate of “quarrels, gossip, and disputes,” so that we can live our lives…both in and out of the Church in The Peace of Christ and with Joy?

It certainly seems that, through this character study, Jesus is urging us to push back against the all too human tendency to be arrogant and opinionated…convinced of our own righteousness.

When we “start with God,” beginning our prayer by acknowledging our ignorance and inadequacies, our petitions will reach the heavens…and we will be given the spirit of understanding.

Then we might be better able to live in the Peace of Christ.

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 19:1-10
October 30, 2022

The most recent postings on the web page for NASA include beautiful images of a spectacular phenomenon that has been given the name PILLARS OF CREATION.

The James Webb Space Telescope has transmitted these fresh and highly detailed pictures of this region in the Galaxy that was first “discovered” back in 1995 by the Hubble Space Telescope. What we see in these new pictures are the same columns of gas and dust but with much more detail and clarity. Scientists tell us that what we are looking at is the place where, over the course of millions of years, new stars form and then “burst” out into the universe. All of this has excited and energized the scientific community, which continues its efforts to explore the secrets of the Universe.

NASA is a bit like Zacchaeus in that it is climbing higher and higher to get an even better view…and to gather knowledge!

Curiosity motivated the little tax collector from Jericho to climb a tree. Just the same with scientists. Driven by the desire to solve mysteries and discover new things, they are developing technologies that will give them an even better view. It does seem likely, however, that, for scientists, there is also the hope of rewards…fame and fortune. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, already a wealthy man, appears to have been seeking “spiritual enrichment” for its own sake.

Whatever the motivation, God is eager to oblige worthy seekers. Through Jesus, Zacchaeus’ thirst for “spiritual enrichment” was satisfied as he hosted the Lord as an overnight guest. Although many involved in scientific ventures are unaware or deny it, or would even aggressively deny it, The Holy Spirit gifts these seekers with the skills and abilities that they need to progress in their work.

God does not keep secrets!

In fact, it might help the scientific community to better understand what it is they are celebrating when an intergalactic telescope transmits some new image.

Our First Reading from the Book of Wisdom offers insights that are missing from even the most advanced analysis of new data. The Creator calls all things into being out of love. God treasures every atom, every particle, every speck of star dust…and everything has a purpose in God’s Eternal plan. God’s plan is to preserve and to build, certainly not to tear down and destroy.

One thing revealed in Scripture that science has come to accept is that God works very slowly and patiently…over the course of multiple millions of years. Nowhere is God’s patience more evident than with doubters and sinners. Eventually, in God’s time, even those explorers most blind to God’s fingerprints on all things, will come to understand. That is God’s plan.

For those of us who do believe, especially during these times of so much turmoil, destruction, tearing down, and catastrophic events…the Second Reading is worth…a second reading!

St. Paul’s words of encouragement to the Thessalonians are especially important for us to hear today. As the scientific community goes about its work, the work of the Christian community is simply to give witness to what has already been revealed by God. Believers are encouraged to wait patiently for God’s plan to come to fulfillment. Disciples are called to live The Gospel while we wait.

Which brings us to this week’s Gospel.

There is something almost amusing about Zacchaeus. But his desire to learn is most serious. Also serious is the lesson to be learned from his efforts to “catch a glimpse” of Jesus. The unobstructed view he sought in the limbs of a tree earned for him the most intimate experience of The Lord…WHO SPENT THE NIGHT IN HIS HOME!

That same intimate experience is available to everyone who simply sits in the quiet of their home with Sacred Scripture. The mysteries of the universe will be open to those who seek with a sincere heart. There is no need to climb a tree. All we need do is to open “THE BOOK!”

And then…to live what we read.
When we do that, we become living PILLARS OF CREATION…our faith, hope, and love bursting out into the world around us…and shining like new stars. Those looking on do not need a high-powered telescope to see that they are looking at God’s handiwork. They see, with detail and clarity, what God intends for all humankind…PEACE! Through the faithful, others become excited and energized…and are enlightened.

And so, The Creator’s plan to “build” continues…through sincere seekers…people of good will…very, very slowly until the Day of the Lord!

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 20:27-38
November 6, 2022

I gave myself quite a headache this week… ”multi-tasking!”

I was reflecting on the Readings for this Sunday. Simultaneously, I was working on a brief homily for a special 25th Wedding Anniversary Mass that I have the honor of celebrating for very close friends later in the week. The result was a spiritual collision of sorts that left me banging my head against the wall (figuratively, not literally) …hence, the headache.

Most Scripture passages recommended for the celebration of the Sacrament of Christian Marriage, along with the ritual prayers which the Church has composed, in one way or another, support the notion that the marriage covenant will survive even death. In other words, Christian Marriage offers the promise of an eternal reunion in the Kingdom. That is certainly the image that I am hoping to communicate to my friends: What began 25 years ago is, in fact, timeless and will come to fulfillment in the Kingdom.

But then it dawned on me: How credible will my anniversary homily be when my friends have just heard Jesus quoted as saying: “Those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage”?

It certainly appears that the Lord Himself is contradicting the hopes and dreams that we strive to instill in the minds and hearts of brides and grooms…as well as those celebrating 25 years of married love.

So, what is a multi-tasking preacher to do? What are a bride and groom to think? How should a couple celebrating a silver wedding anniversary feel about all of this? (Starting to get a headache?)

Forget reaching for an aspirin. Instead, take special note of the fact that it was members of the Sadducees wing of Judaism asking the question. Although, in theory, they were religious leaders, members of this elite, wealthy, and powerful wing of Judaism were more influenced by Greek philosophy than The Law of Moses. They were also highly political, very concerned to be in the good graces of the Romans.

Accordingly, among other things revealed by God, they rejected the possibility of resurrection. So why even ask a question about resurrection? It is doubtful that they really wanted to know what Jesus thought. Rather than the desire to learn something, they most likely hoped to make Jesus look foolish.

We can tell from His response that Jesus was aware of their true motives. He must also have appreciated that they were “unteachable.” But, in a sense, He had no choice but to “multi-task.” He had to respond to them…and at the same time, take the opportunity to teach those who really wanted to learn…including us today.

His answer does not undermine any of the beautiful imagery with which we celebrate the Sacrament of Christian Marriage; rather, it seems to take it to the next level. After first affirming the resurrection of the dead, the Lord goes on to compare the “children of God” with angelic beings. Living out the marriage covenant in fidelity and love offers spouses a glimpse of what that all means. Furthermore, married love and fidelity is also a beautiful way for a husband and wife to work together to ensure that, someday, they both enjoy what, in this life, we can only imagine.

The Lord’s answer to these hypocrites most likely gave them headaches. But His response for us…for all sincere and genuine seekers…should be a source of great comfort and peace.

What Jesus has given is assurance that what awaits those who are called to resurrected life defies any experience, hope, or dream which we might enjoy here and now. The message here seems to be simply this: TRUST IN GOD…AND PREPARE FOR PERFECT AND INFINITE PEACE, JOY, AND LOVE!

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 21:5-19
November 13, 2022

We are in the final days of this liturgical year. As Ordinary Time concludes, our Sunday Readings are always “apocalyptic; speaking to the “end times.” That is The Church’s way to direct our attention to Advent…the new beginning.

In truth, for some months now, the news has been as frightening as our First Reading…or the picture that Jesus paints in Luke’s Gospel. Many people, reacting to the latest natural disaster, or mass shooting, drone attack, or public health crisis…have “wondered” …IS THIS THE END?

The campaign ads leading up to our mid-term elections this past week, certainly did nothing to lighten the mood. Rather than offering “survival plans” that point to a brighter future, ALL of the candidates seem to have focused on the disaster that will result should the opposition win. The Catholic Church in the State of Michigan, was particularly concerned and prayed about the impact of Proposal 3. In fact, one friend sent me an email on Wednesday morning that read: I’m devastated over Prop 3. When God has had enough, Michigan will be the first state turned to ash. (Spoken like a true Old Testament Prophet!)

Bishop Gruss issued a press release, which, if you haven’t read yet, is well worth tracking down. The eye-catching headline is: Jesus looks over the State of Michigan and weeps.”

The Bishop does not anticipate fire balls raining down from heaven. He “acknowledges the reality that a majority of Michigan voters have embraced, as a fundamental right, taking the life of an unborn child…”

The “reality” is much greater than a ballot proposal in 2022. The mere fact that we were even called to vote on such an issue shines light on the “reality” of this world.

The “reality” is that we exist during the “in between times.” The Reign of God having been ushered in by the Person of Jesus, we now wait for Christ to return and make all things new….and perfect…and eternal. In the meantime, we must do our best to survive in this world of power, greed, violence and injustice, without losing hope. And our hope is that Christ will return in Glory and awaken us to the “reality” that God has always intended for us…PERFECT LOVE!

Turn on the television and in a split second you will know that we are living in a night mare of our own making…and not the dream that God has for us. Moreover, the “reality” is that no proposal, no vote, no law, can do what the Gospel does…and awaken us to what God intends for those who strive to live the Law of Love.

Almost 30 years ago, Franciscan theologian Fr. Richard Rohr published a book titled: Jesus’s Alternative Plan. There, he suggests that: We can never expect Caesar to do Christ’s work. In other words, no law drafted by the human hand, will accomplish what was inspired by God…THE GOOD NEWS…THE GOSPEL!

And in the spirit of the Gospel, Bishop Gruss reminds that: We are an Easter People. It looked like complete defeat on Good Friday, but the reality of Jesus’ Resurrection teaches us that, in the end, life prevails. He concludes by doing what Caesar has failed to do…Christ’s work…by offering the alternative of life…to those who might consider terminating a pregnancy.

It might seem to many that we are bringing this liturgical year to a close during terrifying times. No doubt, our challenges seem insurmountable. But our Gospel this Sunday concludes with a very powerful word: PERSEVERANCE.

When we persevere in the Gospel, God’s dream becomes our “reality.”

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Lk 23:35-43
November 20, 2022

Last week, Charles III dedicated the first posthumous statue of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. The event occurred in the city of York, England. The 7-foot, 4,000-pound limestone image has been placed on a niche above the entrance to the largest Gothic cathedral in Britain. The sculpture shows the late monarch in regal robes complete with a diadem (crown of sorts.) She is holding an orb and scepter, symbolic of her role as the head of both church and state. One of the most recognizable faces in the world for most of the last century, the monument is portrait quality.

The occasion was celebrated by a throng of cheering people gathered in the square in front of the Cathedral, now renamed in her honor. In spite of the fact that “royalty” is resoundingly rejected in this country, the event, much like her recent funeral and all other public events involving the “royal family,” was widely broadcast here. Americans seem to have a fascination with “crowned heads.”

That celebration offers a stark contrast to the Feast of Christ the King, with which we conclude the liturgical year.

On Good Friday, when Jesus mounted The Throne of The Cross, there was no throng of cheering supporters, only the jeers of a crowd unified in their rejection of, and hatred for, this prophetic activist. The message that so inflamed this diverse group of religious leaders, Jewish politicians, Roman soldiers, and even common people…raised a threat to the world view of each.

He was not clothed in royal garb, but stripped of all earthly evidence of who He was…a poor carpenter from Nazareth. His horrific wounds, inflicted by those who were determined to silence Him, were outward signs of failure. He was left to die with a crown on His head…a CROWN of THORNS. A final mockery was the written declaration posted over His Cross…His throne…to the effect that He was “King of the Jews.”

There is no video footage of Him, no detailed portrait, no easily identifiable statute. We can only speculate what a Jewish peasant in first century Palestine would have looked like.

Through the Gospel, however, Jesus has left us the perfect Self-portrait. He encourages us to recognize Him in the faces of the poor, the marginalized, the sick, the homeless, the immigrant…our neighbor. “The Face of Christ the King” is not memorialized in 4,000 pounds of limestone…but in suffering flesh and blood.

Many artists have attempted to create images of what we celebrate today. Paintings and statues show Him clothed much like the royal lady overlooking the cathedral square in York. The wounds are covered in lavish robes. The crown of thorns is replaced by a jewel encrusted diadem. Christ the King is often depicted, like Elizabeth II, with an orb and scepter. (Although, arguably, it was not The Lord’s intention to propose a new religion…or to become the head of church and state. His purpose was to announce a radical new world order…a way in which the will of God would be done on earth as it is in heaven.)

We have to be cautious when we look at these images showing Christ as an earthly monarch. They can be misleading. In truth, Jesus of Nazareth specifically rejected such things. His kingdom was not of this world.

His ambition was not to dominate as with earthly dictators. He came to liberate all humankind from whatever world order…world view…political system…even religious tradition that proved to be oppressive. His mission was to identify all human beings as children of God…members of the most royal of households…called to be a unified and holy nation.

Someday, that limestone lady will fade into history. Maybe time will erode her, or a natural disaster wash her away, or violence destroy her. But the Reign of God is eternal…as it was in the beginning…is now…and ever shall be…without beginning and without end.

These are the truths we celebrate as we end this liturgical year and look forward to the First Sunday of Advent. So then, why not make a New Year’s resolution?

In the coming new year, let’s resolve to work extra hard to ignore the fleeting things going on around us. Instead, let’s focus on becoming more and more fascinated…preoccupied with…totally committed to…the Reign of God.

If we try our best to do that, it will be a Happy New Year!

Sunday Journal Archive